RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to embed vast amounts of written language into mathematical entities — called vectors — that the computer can understand. If RankBrain sees a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with, the machine can make a guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly, making it more effective at handling never-before-seen search queries. […]
The system helps Mountain View, California-based Google deal with the 15 percent of queries a day it gets which its systems have never seen before, he said. For example, it’s adept at dealing with ambiguous queries, like, “What’s the title of the consumer at the highest level of a food chain?” And RankBrain’s usage of AI means it works differently than the other technologies in the search engine.
“The other signals, they’re all based on discoveries and insights that people in information retrieval have had, but there’s no learning,” Corrado said. […]
In the few months it has been deployed, RankBrain has become the third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query, he said.
Amit Singhal, SVP of search at Google, in an article by Douglas Macmillan, at The Wall Street Journal:
“Search as we think about it is fundamentally how you will interact with computing,” Mr. Singhal said. “Computing may live in a 4-to-6-inch device, it may live in a desktop, it may live on a 1-inch round device.”
It’s not the only perspective on the subject, but it’s worth understanding.
2. Apple introduces us to the Apple Ring in all its Glory From Jack Purcher, on his site, Patently Apple. Note how often the patent says “in some embodiments”, meaning the device doesn’t have to be a ring. In fact, the patent states the device could have a touchpad or a touchscreen. Some of the use cases appear watch-friendly.
Apple explains that there’s a need for electronic devices with faster, more efficient methods and interfaces for interacting and/or controlling external electronic devices.
5. Google’s Cute Cars And The Ugly End Of Driving Nice piece by Matt Honan, at BuzzFeed. Great experience:
The first time I rode in a fully autonomous car, what really impressed me was when the car saw something that I could not.
After Google acquired the maker of connected-home devices for $3.2 billion in 2014, Nest kept its own recruiters and its own system for vetting job candidates, skirting Google’s famously deliberate hiring process. Nest still rents computer servers from Amazon.com Inc., rather than use Google’s data centers. […]
As they convened to discuss one of the young bet businesses, Sundar Pichai, who will be CEO of core Google, wasn’t there. The others waited for a time, but then realized Mr. Pichai didn’t need to be there. The meeting went ahead without him […].
“It gets a little faster, more efficient and a little more independent,” said Andy Conrad, CEO of Google Life Sciences, one of the bet companies. “I act as a CEO of an independent company instead of a senior executive within a large company.”
Previously, policies were relatively uniform across business units, regardless of suitability. And, during corporate ops reviews, your business unit might be agenda item #17. The affect is subtle, but if your item receives tired attention, or gets dropped – or worse, gets 1 minute and then the idea is dismissed – your business isn’t going to thrive. The ability to act on your own timing, as a business unit lead, is energizing, to you and to your people. Multiply that increase in speed and energy at critical moments and, over time, it shows up in business results.
New high-end cars are among the most sophisticated machines on the planet, containing 100 million or more lines of code. Compare that with about 60 million lines of code in all of Facebook or 50 million in the Large Hadron Collider. […]
The sophistication of new cars brings numerous benefits — forward-collision warning systems and automatic emergency braking that keep drivers safer are just two examples. But with new technology comes new risks — and new opportunities for malevolence. […]
Makes you wonder what sort of opportunities for better streamlining, unification, speed, and security there are. What is Tesla doing, and what will Google and Apple do, differently?
Yesterday, I posted a working view on dimensions and issues that affect car performance and car enjoyment. Today, I’m sharing with you the rest of the slide, the “Near Future” items.
It’s a working view, and certainly a very high level one. Hopefully, however, it will help you shape yours – via curiosity, reinforcement, or even disagreement – about how the car might evolve. As you can see, many items are driven by software, and several may be enabled by modularity (the cabin, maintenance, upgrade-ability advances). You can be sure that these elements are the focus of discussion at Tesla, Google, and Apple, as they develop their next-generation vehicles.
Now, for simplicity, this particular view is focused on ten dimensions. Most of them are related to the physical product. But there are many more ways to think about cars: some very fundamental aspects (e.g., jobs to be done), related steps (production system, customization, financing, charging at home and away, etc.), and specific high-value technologies (driver assistance, battery, quick charger, sensors, machine learning, security, just to name a few). The point, then, is that there are actually many ways to re-think the car, its purpose, context, and systems, and many dimensions to competition. The view above is just a device-centric start. I might explore some of the additional elements in the future.
Critically, it’s important to remember that no single car or car maker will advance in all areas. The effective product, design, and engineering leaders will focus on the most impactful elements and prioritize those. The outcome will depend on the customer they want to serve, the company’s capabilities and aspirations, competitor offerings, and the time available. (And – critically – on the leaders’ own sensibilities and the dynamics inside the organization.)
Still, it’s *very useful* to develop a rich super-set of things one *could* improve upon, comprised of this list and the other items I touched on. That sort of situational awareness helps you prioritize, and have confidence in your priorities, about where to direct R&D, product definition, design, and marketing. It helps you to shape the product you ship and its future generations.
So, back to cars, then. There are plenty of ways to make cars better. Who will be first? Who will be boldest? Who will be best? Who will make the transition from today’s car to tomorrow’s. And who might just skip most of that transition altogether? It’s 2015 – it feels like the future – but the journey to re-invent the car has just started.
1. Connected, self-driving cars dominate buzz at Frankfurt auto show David McHugh, Associated Press, at the San Jose Mercury News:
The big question among automakers is whether they will be the ones to provide new technologies — and profit from them — or will major tech companies like Google and Apple take a slice of the industry. For now, the two sides are balancing cooperation against competition as they gauge what the future holds.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra succinctly expressed a common view, asserting that “we will see more change in the industry in the next five to ten years than we have in the last 50.”
2. Google self-driving car patent reveals how you’ll let AI take the wheel Chris Ziegler, for The Verge:
An arm on the steering column (not much different from a windshield wiper arm) could be pulled to engage a car’s self-driving mode; at that point, the system would do a check to see whether it’s ready and able to actually take control from the driver. If it isn’t — the car can’t get a GPS lock, for instance — the driver might see a “Not Available” light on the dash. Otherwise, you’d see a “Ready” light, at which point you can start taking your appendages off the wheel and pedals.
3. How carmakers can compete for the connected consumer Hans-Werner Kaas, Andreas Tschiesner, Dominik Wee, and Matthias Kässer, for McKinsey, in the full PDF report cited by the article:
The connected car will feature a high number of interfaces (e.g., to infrastructure, to other vehicles, and to some cloud-based platform) for which common standards are required (cross-brand, cross-geographies). Building an ecosystem of multiple OEMs with a shared platform might turn out to be a more promising way for them to succeed than to try competing on their own.
In such an ecosystem, OEMs and other players could cooperate using the same (software) platform to reach sufficient scale and to acquire specific capabilities for providing functionalities and services while keeping control over data flows.
They could, I suppose. Under perfect cooperation. But that’s not very likely. That’s one reason (of several) why Google has developed an autonomous automobile platform. And also one reason why Apple thinks its integrated hardware-software approach will be an advantage.
1. Auto manufacturers pledge auto-braking for the masses (Scroll down to the “Complete stop” section.)
In another move that could speed the adoption of self-driving cars, ten automakers pledged on Friday to outfit all of their new cars with automatic braking systems, which use on-vehicle sensors to apply the driver’s brakes if a collision with a car or any other object is imminent.
2. Intel Establishes Automotive Security Review Board Hope it’s effective.
[Intel] announced the establishment of the Automotive Security Review Board (ASRB). The board will encompass top security industry talent across the globe with particular areas of expertise in cyber-physical systems
[Google] says the project isn’t ready to become a separate company yet, “though it’s certainly a good candidate to become one at some point in the future.”
4. Google reveals plans to increase production of self-driving cars Exploring production makes sense.
[Google] revealed its plans to build many more fully autonomous prototypes, and possibly move towards mass manufacturing.
5. Apple’s ‘Project Titan’ car initiative negatively impacting Tesla’s product development, source says It’s so hard, from the outside, to understand the true nature of what, if anything, is going on – even with some inside information. It does, however, sound interesting. Especially if some of the people that Tesla lost (Apple gained) are senior engineers and production managers.
BMW’s new chief executive Harald Krueger is open to exploring deeper partnerships with software and computer companies such as Apple […].
BMW has realized next-generation vehicles cannot be built without more input from telecoms and software experts […].
7. Honda gets California approval for self-driving cars on roads Cool. More exploration and more competition should lead to better products, faster.
Google Inc expects to return to mainland China as early as this fall following a five-year absence, tech website The Information reported on Friday.
The company hopes to get Chinese government approval for a China version of its Play store mobile app, The Information reported, citing people familiar with the plan. (bit.ly/1NfthB8)
The tech giant is also planning to extend support of a version of Android for wearable devices in the country, The Information cited one of the people as saying.
China is hard to resist. It’s the biggest smartphone market in the world, in terms of units, and one of the largest, in terms of profit.
If Google does re-enter China, we’ll witness an interesting experiment: a well-funded mobile OS, with minimal app / app store share in this market, attempting to gain a foothold in the midst of thriving local app ecosystems.
If any device OEMs gain (a valid question), who would be most likely? Those without a well-established app ecosystem: Samsung, Huawei, Lenovo. If anyone suffers (again, a valid question), it’ll be a player with an established ecosystem, namely Xiaomi.
2. There is no simple way to switch to a “consumption-driven” economy without the growth rate both falling and staying permanently lower. Structural reforms are absolutely called for, but in this context they represent a surrender to a lower rate of growth and thus they are especially difficult to pull off in a politically sustainable manner.
3. The Chinese have been growing at ten percent or nearly ten percent for about thirty-five years. More than a generation of Chinese is used to treating the risk premium as if they don’t have to worry about it. I shudder to think what economic and also political decisions have been made on that basis
2. Documents reveal Apple’s secretive next-generation retail store design I’ve always liked the organic and simple materials in Apple stores (wood, stone, glass), along with the almost ancient notion of simple street market tables as the primary presentation aid. And plenty of natural light. More to come, apparently.
The new store features floor-to-ceiling glass panels and a roof that appears to be intended, at least in part, to allow natural light to filter in from above. It also includes a lighter natural granite facade and a simplified interior layout designed to show off the product tables from the street.
All told, Android Wear for iOS should work almost the same as it does for Android phones. You’ll get notifications from your favorite Google services like Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Now, as well as Apple’s Calendar, Google Fit, the weather, alarm, agenda, Translate and so forth. It’ll work with voice queries and you can change the watch face just as you can with the Android app. According to Google, you don’t need to have any of these apps installed; they’re all built into the iOS app itself (We’re guessing that you’ll be asked to login with your Google credentials and it’ll go from there). Any third party app notifications that show up on your iPhone will also show on the watch. However, if you want true native third party app syncing, apparently that’s still in the works.
This could be good for consumers and for Android Wear watch sales. Consumers who use iOS can chose additional watches, and Android Wear watches can now reach an expanded market. The bigger the market for smartwatches and wearables, the faster they’ll improve. Three big questions, however:
- How many iPhone users will opt for an Android Wear watch? The reason to do so would be: price, fashion, utility (e.g., always-on display, cellular connectivity), or custom watch faces (for either fashion or utility purposes).
- How good can iOS interoperability get over time? Today, iOS interoperability is fairly constrained. And though it may remain so, the nature of those constraints will likely evolve. Google’s ability to utilize iOS can improve, too. Finally, Android Wear developers can now try and impress a new set of customers.
- Will Android Wear OEMs take specific action to capitalize on this? For them, it’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, it means more consumers can buy their watches. (Swatch, for instance, is probably quite pleased right now.) On the other hand, since most of the OEMs are smartphone makers, they’re giving consumers fewer reasons to buy an Android smartphone. Would they dare advertise this benefit? Can you imagine a Samsung or Motorola ad that highlights iOS compatibility? We’ll see.
These are all questions and possibilities. Let’s check back and see how this really develops.
1. Benedict Evans on How Both Apple and Google Are Winning the Smartphone Wars (Video) Worth watching. Video is embedded below, too.
2. Rumored Xiaomi Mi Edge offers a curved edge on both sides of the screen Xiaomi isn’t shy about integrating newly-available technology into its products, so this rumor in the realm of the possible. And Samsung Display would certainly love for other OEMs to buy its flexible OLED product.
3. LG’s new smart sensor will turn your old appliances into connected gadgets Interesting idea. Simple functions.
- Unfortunately, Google is struggling with a number of issues that will limit its ability to keep Google Now far ahead of its competitors unless it moves fast.
- First. Its latest innovation Now on Tap (see here) which has the potential to meaningfully improve Google’s data collection, requires Android M to work.
- Google’s inability to update the software on its devices means that it could be 2017 or 2018 before Android M will be mainstream (see here).
- Second. Many of the core team who developed Google Now have left the company after their creation was folded into the core search business against their wishes.
- Cortana on Android is another move by Microsoft to make its ecosystem operating system agnostic, aiming instead to encourage users to like and spend time with its services.
- This is exactly the right strategy for Microsoft to become an ecosystem company but […] there is still an awful lot of work ahead.
It would tell us that Apple is millions of miles behind Google, and falling further behind every day.
As one of the few companies in the world richer than Google, Apple can match the cars, sensors, processors, navigational systems and other pieces of hardware that Google might deploy. It can replicate the sophisticated maps that Google has compiled. It will have a very hard time, however, catching up with Google’s on-the-road learning.
Google’s lead in autonomous cars is certainly very meaningful and very impressive. Very. It’s based on great talent, foresight, timing, and hard work. It’s one of the many reasons I respect and really like Google (/Alphabet). And, even if there’s a much more gradual, prolonged shift to autonomous cars — i.e., via semi-autonomous cars – Google is in a strong position to capitalize on that.
And Chunka Mui is right to say that Apple will have a “very hard time” catching up. By definition, the nature of the problem that Google, Apple and others aim to solve is “very hard”. And, more to Mui’s point, it’s true that reaching Google’s level of proficiency will be, again in his words, “very hard”.
But, so what? It would be a mistake to equate “very hard” with unlikely.
First, it’s very, extremely, immensely early in the shift to autonomous cars. And, as an aside, it’s so early that even if Apple’s first car isn’t a fully autonomous car, it might be *exactly* the right product for that moment in time.
Second, to generalize, the one thing Apple (like Google and Tesla) is good at is solving “very hard” problems. And, unlike Google, Apple has, for years, solved ones that combine computing and physical interaction; bits and atoms, integrated.
Third, there are many dimensions of competition. (The contrast between Google’s approach to mobile devices and Apple’s illustrates this perfectly.) In the context of cars, Google has amassed a lead in one major one: autonomy. In smartphone terms, that’s like mastering the very essential aspect of — pick your analogy – connectivity, sensing, imaging. Each one is an essential-but-not-sufficient condition for success. (I’ll highlight other conditions or dimensions in upcoming posts.)
So, Mui’s article is well worth reading. But, to beat the smartphone analogy to death, it’s the year 1995, in smartphone terms. And yes, some will say “Time moves ‘faster’ now; competitors learn at an accelerated pace. ‘1995-to-now’ will happen rapidly”. In some ways, that’s true. But there are also key differences: regulation, consumer psyche, and a very high-stakes environment, where quality, privacy, and security matter at — to use a Google term — a 10X level. It’s too early to discount Apple.
Android Wear’s watch faces are getting a bit more interesting today. Developers were always able to display a lot of information on their watch faces, but users couldn’t interact with it. Starting today, however, you’ll be able to install interactive watch faces that allow you to pull up more information and launch apps with a tap right from the watch face (and developers will be able to build them).
Nice move. I think many consumers will value this, whether for fashion, fun, or utility. I’ve said before that I view the smartwatch as a tool. It delivers, in a phrase, fast utility. Allowing users to select or configure the specific watch face they want – even if the OS provider doesn’t make it – could be very valuable to many consumers. Apple doesn’t offer custom watch faces today, but I’m convinced it will. Until then, there’s this … It’s more on the “fun” side…