June 19, 2013
Some veterans of Russia’s Internet scene perceived a unique opportunity in Vietnam. “Russians Attempt to Topple Google in Vietnam,” declares The Economic Times of India. Those observers recently helped found an Internet search company in that country called Coc Coc (“Knock Knock” in English). Their workers’ fundamental understanding of the language and culture, they say, make for a more effective Vietnamese algorithm that could unseat Google there.
Google’s situation is complicated by the government’s position on censorship; it is currently working on laws that would further strangle free expression online. It might even require foreign companies to maintain servers within their borders. As we saw in China, Google will (wisely) lose business rather than play ball with a repressive regime. Coc Coc, however, may be more willing to cooperate with its host government.
The article relates:
“‘When I came here, I had some understanding why Vietnam was a good market to beat Google,’ said Mikhail Kostin, the company’s chief search expert and like others in Coc Coc, a veteran at Russia’s largest Internet company, Mail.Ru. ‘But after living here for one year, I understand the language and market much more deeply. I’m sure it’s right.’
“Close to a third of Vietnam’s 90 million people are online and men and women browsing phones and tablets are a common sight in the cafes of its towns and cities. The country’s potential for growth, its young population and good Internet infrastructure have made it an attractive destination for regional and international investors and startups in online content, e-payment and other services.”
Coc Coc also has an advantage over other local startups—plenty of cash. The company will not identify investors, but says it will have over $100 million to spend over the next five years. For its part, Google simply says it welcomes the competition.
Cynthia Murrell, June 19, 2013
June 18, 2013
A report from services firm IHS conjures up a number best served with a grain of salt. Electronic engineering site EE Times reports, “Spurred by Google Glass, IHS Forecasts Nearly 10 Million Smart Glasses to Ship from 2012 to 2016.” The forecast looks past the public-availability launch, expected next year, and predicts the device’s trajectory after that.
Quite simply, it all depends on third-party apps. A number of developers have already paid $1,500 for the privilege of early ownership, and early tinkering. Perhaps developers will quickly create a wealth of exciting augmented-reality apps, driving a surge in popularity for the device. Perhaps these apps will change the way we interact with the world forever, and our Glasses will eventually become as essential as our smartphones are now. The rosiest numbers in the report spring from that direction.
There are other possibilities, however. Writer Julien Happich shares the predictions’ duller side:
“Under a more pessimistic scenario, IHS forecasts that only about 1 million smart glasses will be shipped through 2016. According to this outlook, applications for smart glasses will be limited to some of those already displayed by Google in its Glass marketing. These include scenarios where smart glasses become more of a wearable camera device than a true augmented reality system. In this case, smart glasses will be mainly used for recording sports and other non-casual events, like jumping out of a plane, as demonstrated at the Google I/O developer conference in 2012.”
At over $200 million in 2012, the wearable-camera market is nothing to sneeze at, but it is far from the multi-billion-dollar arena Google is after here. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in between. The future of Glass is in the apps; we’ll just have to wait and see what developers come up with.
Cynthia Murrell, June 18, 2013
June 18, 2013
Companies have not flocked to Google+, and many businesses which have joined the service let their accounts lie fallow. Reuters reports on this unsurprising trend in, “Analysis—Google+ Struggles to Attract Brands, Some Neglect to Update.”
Yes, Facebook and Twitter are the hotbeds of enterprise social-media initiatives, while latecomer Google+ has struggled for relevance. The service has had a few business success stories. Fiat, for example, launched a new car through the site’s Hangout video-conferencing feature, while Cadbury hosts a thriving baking-community page. And there is no doubt that even companies who maintain the humblest of Google+ presences receive a boost in Google Search results. Still, overall corporate activity on the Googley social site is sparse.
Why the disparity? The biggest issue is, of course, that Google+ has attracted very few users compared to its main rivals. That is not all, though. The article tells us:
“Some also complain that Google+ is too restrictive a canvas. Its profile pages are more limited than on Facebook or Twitter because they don’t support iFrame, a Web standard that allows multiple Web pages to be embedded within a main page.
“‘I don’t think that Google+ has enough creative options for brands to be able to marshal a lot of resources and activity around it,’ said Vince Broady, the Chief Executive of Thismoment, which develops social marketing campaigns and Web pages for brands such as Coca Cola and Intel.
“Gretchen Howard, Google’s director of global social solutions, said the company was working its way down a ‘wish list’ of features that businesses have been asking for.”
So, it looks like the company is addressing the issue. Will it be too little too late?
Cynthia Murrell, June 18, 2013
June 16, 2013
Search Engine Watch re-posted an aggressive article towards Google recently: “Google Should Kill or Radically Change Universal Search Results.” The message comes from Foundem, an UK price comparison firm that has rejected Google’s proposed web search concessions.
These concessions come following the European Commission’s ongoing antitrust investigation into Google’s search business. Foundem believes that their proposed concessions will not lessen Google’s monopoly on web search.
The article tells us that the proposed concessions ignore Google’s monopoly on search:
“Instead, the concessions focus on minor alterations to Google’s “self-serving Universal Search inserts.” According to Foundem’s report, any concessions must address Google’s AdWords search capabilities. Foundem says AdWords will continue to give Google an unfair advantage until they are re-worked. The company says that the current proposal fails to correct Google searches relevance for showing its own services in results. Foundem believes that to truly slow Google’s search monopoly it would have to either eliminate universal search or drastically change it.”
This information reported suggests there is still a big question about federated search results despite the fact that Google’s Universal Search initiative was announced back in 2007.
Megan Feil, June 16, 2013
June 14, 2013
It has been two years since Google introduced its social network and it remains without much fanfare. As a clear example of how major companies see Google Plus fitting into their social media strategy, a Technology Spectator article explains that Domino’s is currently garnering thousands of “likes” on Facebook but the last post on Google Plus was in October 2012. “Is Google + Struggling to Stay Relevant?” remains the question.
The article shares where there might be room for Google Plus and where they might have missed the boat:
“Many businesses do build outposts on Google+, eager to benefit from its integration with Google’s popular Internet search service. Some corporations have even used its online video feature for splashy product launches. But the flurry of commercial activity common on other social networks – from restaurant promotions to movie trailers – is harder to spot on Google+, raising questions about its ability to rival Facebook or Twitter as a thriving online community.”
Here we have an article that is simply putting more dents in Google Plus’ fender. However, if you wear Google Glass you may not have processed this write up.
Megan Feil, June 14, 2013
June 14, 2013
The article titled The Tragic Beauty of Google Plus on Time’s Techland explores the new Google Plus features launched during the Keynote. These include the ability to see activity streams as tile columns and the ability to simplify to just one column if you prefer. Google Plus also can auto-hash tag, and in some cases even identify relevant hash tags by analyzing the photo. But even these new features and layout may not be enough to draw away Facebook users. The article explains why,
“Once a me-too service that seemed to exist solely because Facebook posed a potentially existential threat to Google’s dominance of the web, it now has its own style and signature features. Where Facebook is rather stolid – it has its own beautification initiative going on, but feels hamstrung by its need to retain some visual consistency with its past self — Google+ is exuberant. It’s fun to use.
And yet I’m pretty positive I won’t spend remotely as much time in it as I will in Facebook.”
The argument goes that Facebook is better simply because more people are on Facebook. A social network is only as good as the community it holds, sure, but we wonder if this is damning by faint praise. Google Plus is innovative whereas Facebook still clings to its original layout, but it is still no contest as to which is more popular.
Chelsea Kerwin, June 14, 2013
June 13, 2013
Many years ago I lectured in Japan. On that visit, I saw a demonstration of a photo recognition system. Click on a cow and the system would return other four legged animals —- most of the time. Some years later I was asked to review facial recognition systems after a notable misfire in a major city. Since then, my team and I check out the systems which become known to us.
Progress is being made. That’s encouraging. However, a number of challenges have to be resolved. These range from false positives to context failures. In the case of a false positive, the person or thing in the picture is not the person or thing one sought. In the case of context failure, the cow painted on the side of a truck is not the same as a cow standing in a field with many other cows clumped around.
Software is bumping up against computational boundaries. The methods available have to be optimized to run in available resources. When there are bigger and faster systems, then fancier math can be used. Today’s innovations boil down, in my opinion, to clever manipulations of well known systems and methods. The reason many software systems perform in a similar manner is that these systems share many procedures. Innovation is often optimization and packaging, not a leap frog to more sophisticated numerical procedures. Trimming, chopping down, and streamlining via predictive methods are advancing the ball down the field.
I read with interest “Improving Photo Search: A Step across the Semantic Gap.” Google has rolled out enhanced photo search. The system works better than other systems. As Google phrases it:
We built and trained models similar to those from the winning team using software infrastructure for training large-scale neural networks developed at Google in a group started by Jeff Dean and Andrew Ng. When we evaluated these models, we were impressed; on our test set we saw double the average precision when compared to other approaches we had tried. We knew we had found what we needed to make photo searching easier for people using Google. We acquired the rights to the technology and went full speed ahead adapting it to run at large scale on Google’s computers. We took cutting edge research straight out of an academic research lab and launched it, in just a little over six months. You can try it out at photos.google.com. Why the success now? What is new? Some things are unchanged: we still use convolutional neural networks — originally developed in the late 1990s by Professor Yann LeCun in the context of software for reading handwritten letters and digits. What is different is that both computers and algorithms have improved significantly. First, bigger and faster computers have made it feasible to train larger neural networks with much larger data. Ten years ago, running neural networks of this complexity would have been a momentous task even on a single image — now we are able to run them on billions of images. Second, new training techniques have made it possible to train the large deep neural networks necessary for successful image recognition.
The use of “semantics” is also noteworthy. As I wrote in my analysis of Google Voice for a large investment bank, “Google has an advantage because it has data others do not have.” When it comes to predictive methods and certain types of semantics, the Google data sets give it an advantage over some rivals.
What applied to Google Voice applies to Google photo search. Google is able to tap its data to make educated guesses about images. The semantics and the infrastructure have a turbo boosting effect on Google.
The understatement in the Google message should not be taken at face value. The Google is increasing its lead over its rivals and preparing to move into completely new areas of revenue generation. Images? A step but an important one.
Stephen E Arnold, June 13, 2013
Sponsored by Xenky
June 13, 2013
The article titled Google Overhauling Flagship Search With “Answer, Converse, Anticipate” on Ars Technica discusses the new features Google announced at its Keynote on March 15, 2013. Answer, Converse, Anticipate are the three sections that encapsulate the new strategy. Answer involves Google’s Knowledge Graph, which has been made to understand “real-world entities” instead of just doing a keyword search. Converse uses Google Now to enable conversational searches with Chrome. Anticipation is an expanded version of Google Now, which the article explains was demoed by Joanna Wright, Google VP.
“Using a development build of Chrome, she called up the new search function with a simple “OK, Google”…and asked about interesting things to do in Santa Cruz. She then asked for details about the Santa Cruz boardwalk, which was listed in the results. After a key question (“OK, Google, how far is it from here?”), Google pinpointed her current location at Moscone and told her the boardwalk was 1 hour and 21 minutes away.”
The ability to understand context would mean this technology outsmarts even Siri. Of course it is not yet ready for release, but Google promised it would be available in the near future. The article does not mention good old boolean, date sorting, and relevance with a nod to precision and recall.
Chelsea Kerwin, June 13, 2013
June 13, 2013
On CNet on May 15, 2013, an article appeared titled 90 Percent of Americans Won’t Wear Google Glass, Survey Says. It reports that most Americans are not only uninterested in buying Google Glass, (especially at the price of $1500) but that they have strong feelings against the new product. The reason for this is explained in the article,
“People seem concerned that they will cease to be people. Or, as Joseph Farrell, EVP of operations for Bite chewed it to Mashable: “At best, they see a Glass user as someone who prioritizes information access over a personal connection with others… At worst, they fear social sleights of hand: researching topics, recording video, or Googling a person in mid-conversation. Overall, what Glass offers is a combination of high social rejection with features the average person simply doesn’t value over their current smartphone.”
The article suggests that part of the problem is that Google tends to market to its own employees, who do in fact probably value information access over everything else. This news must have come as shock to Google, which has been happily accepting praise over its innovation for some time. But if the numbers from Bite Interactive are correct, they will certainly dampen Google’s spirits. They may have overestimated the willingness of the American people to change.
Chelsea Kerwin, June 13, 2013
June 12, 2013
Healthcare technology always has new ideas and the biggest change in recent years is the electronic medical record. Business Insider tell us that Google may outdo the EMR with its new glasses in, “Marc Andreessen Describes How Google Glass Will Revolutionize Healthcare.” Marc Andresseen sees Google as a magical device that can augment reality. He is so sure of new technology that he is ready to fund new startups and some of them will probably in healthcare. He points to a hypothetical situation:
“Think of a doctors ‘dealing with wounded patients and right there in their field of vision, if they’re trying to do any kind of procedure, they’ll have step-by-step instructions walking them through it. Don’t have to call anyone, it’s just there. That kind of thing, where we can view the Internet overlaid on the real world is transformative in a lot of different areas,’ he said.”
A visual step-by-step guide for surgery, but why stop there? Why not guides for everything in life, but then that removes the human element, which in turn will harm the services part of the economy, put us in a deeper recession, etc. Google Glass will have its place, but do not forget who serves whom.
Whitney Grace, June 12, 2013