Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Stream-ripping threatens music industry, as companies struggle to make streaming profitable – annotated infographics

April 18, 2017

As if a beleaguered music industry didn’t already have enough to contend with, the rise of streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Pandora, Deezer and Tidal –  yes! even Tidal! – have changed the way many people listen to music. It has also brought about a new form of piracy, known as “stream ripping”.

This new type of copyright infringement has overtaken conventional music download piracy.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

stream-ripping-music-piracy

It’s not all days of wine and roses at the streaming companies, either. Spotify is the most successful streaming music service in the world and streaming is the music industry’s fastest-growing revenue source, yet none of the popular services has yet turned a profit.

Spotify has reportedly been in talks to acquire SoundCloud for some months now, but still no decisive action.

streaming-music-services-profits

Book review: Head in the Cloud: The Power of Knowledge in the Age of Google – William Poundstone

August 3, 2016
Head in the Cloud_9781786070135

Oneworld Publications, September 2016, ISBN 978-178-607-013-5, £12.99, Paperback

It is often cited that we are living in an information age. Gone are the days of trawling through text books and library archives to find the material to complete your latest homework assignment. The internet possesses all the information you could ever need – and then some. Pick up your smart phone or connect to your computer and you have a wealth of data available at your fingertips. While it’s true that it is incredibly easy to look up facts on Google, it’s not so easy to remember any of them. Some have argued that having such a wealth of information available to us is making us stupid.

In his new book, Head in the Cloud: The Power of Knowledge in the Age of Google, William Poundstone turns this theory on its head. Being better connected doesn’t necessarily mean we are better informed and the internet is not making us stupid. Rather, it is making us less aware of what we do not know. We’re living, Poundstone argues, in the golden age of rational ignorance. People are more interested in the lives of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West than bothering to learn who painted the Mona Lisa and millennials use acronyms such as BTDTGTTAWIO (been there, done that, got the t-shirt and wore it out), but are unable to recall the single word uttered by the raven in Edgar Allen Poe’s famed short horror story. So what does being well informed actually mean? Does it really matter?

Speak to any self-proclaimed gamer and you will likely tap into a wealth of information that is missing from the mind of the average Joe. Perhaps you don’t have a clue what processor lurks within your PC, or how to overclock the latest Nvidia graphics card, and why would you? Unless gaming happens to feature high on your list of priorities, you’ll probably never need to know this random information. Equally, some of you reading this review will have got through life just fine without ever having known the catchphrase of Poe’s raven. If someone was to ask you who invented post-it notes, what year Tinder was developed, or what the fastest land mammal on earth is, you could retrieve the answer from the cloud within a fraction of a section of clicking ‘search’ on Google. This poses the question – ‘What’s the point of knowing anything when facts are so easy to look up?’

Interestingly, it turns out that the benefits of staying well-informed stems much further than being everyone’s go-to teammate in the monthly pub quiz. In Head in the Cloud, Poundstone reports results of internet surveys analysing the rate of public knowledge, with outcomes suggesting that better informed individuals are, on the whole, healthier, happier and quite significantly wealthier. Not only this, but factual knowledge is heavily correlated with personality traits, including political opinion. Did you know, for example, that those who are able to locate a country on a map are less likely to be in favour of invading it? This is just the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to ill-informed voters.

Head in the Cloud is hilarious, humbling and brutally honest and will likely make you doubt yourself, and everyone around you. This book is not merely a declaration of the woes of an ill-informed public, it also serves to highlight the benefits of broadening your horizons, offering insight and advice on how to best use todays media to stay informed. If you take only one thing away from this book, let it be the knowledge that there is no such thing as irrelevant information and that you could probably benefit from a little more time spent with an atlas, encyclopaedia and Oxford English dictionary.

Book Review: Design Meets Disability – Graham Pullin

January 4, 2016

By Jade Fell

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

9780262162555

The MIT Press, September 2011, 368 pp, ISBN 978-0-262516-74-7, £17.95 paperback

From their humble beginnings, balanced on the noses of monks and scholars in the 13th century, eyeglasses have undergone a fantastic transformation. The handheld lorgnette donned by ladies in the 19th century gave way to the inexpensive pince-nez of the early 20th  – but It was not until the latter half of the century that eyeglasses were transformed from a mere medical necessity to something more.

In Design Meets Disability, author Graham Pullin approaches assistive technology from the point-of-view of the end user, encouraging designing for the person, rather than the disability. He advocates for moving away from the cold, clinical, “pink moulded plastic” of the 20th century and into something new, unique, and desirable. If assistive technology is to become a large piece of someone’s life why should its purpose be purely functional? Is there not room in the marketplace for fashionable, assistive technology?

By embracing the design culture of the fashion industry, eyeglasses were transformed from something purely functional, to something beautiful – so much so that by the 21st century able-eyed teenagers were popping out the lenses of thick rimmed glasses to add to their everyday outfits. So, if eyeglasses can make the move from medical necessity, to fashion accessory then why can’t the same be true of hearing aids, prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs and communication aids? Of course it can, Pullin suggests, when design and disability meet.

Throughout the course of the book Pullin explores new forms of design for disability – where appearance and functionality complement the results from clinical trials – and meets with prolific designers behind ground-breaking disability design projects. Design, he argues, should be inspired by disability, allowing the two fields to combine to enrich one another.

The meeting of design and disability has further benefits – as well as making designs for disabled people desirable, it can also allow for the making of inclusive designs, which are, not just desirable to all, but useful to all. As explored in this month’s Engineering & Technology magazine by Tereza Pultarova, who looks at the role of digital technology in catering for the needs of blind people. The high-tech age, she suggests, has brought about the “biggest improvement in the lives of blind people since the invention of the white cane” – and this is not purely through new devices being created to cater to this specific group of people, but in making ordinary technology accessible for everyone, including blind people.

Think about the different ways everyday technology and devices function that can be of assistance to disabled people – these days all phones vibrate, which allows for those with limited hearing to know when they are being contacted, while functions included in the Google Search and Chrome smartphone applications allow users to communicate with their phones and tablets using their voice. Design for disability does not, and indeed, should not, have to be exclusive. Take, for example, Pullin’s presentation of watches designed for blind people –some of the designs are seriously beautiful – there are textured watches and those which vibrate, or prick the wearer to tell the time. These watches are not just useful for those with limited sight, but anyone who wants to option of checking the time in a meeting without appearing rude!

As Tom Pey, chief executive of the Royal London Society for Blind People points out in this month’s article: “If technology is simply for blind people, it is doomed to fail. What you need to do is to design the technology in a way that can benefit everybody.”

#Google rolls out high-speed WiFi to India’s train stations – an annotated infographic

October 5, 2015

Here’s a high-tech counterpoint to the traditional Westerner’s view of Indian train travel, a picture of thousands of smiling brown faces crowded into – and onto – antiquated rolling stock, bodies sprawled over the rooftop, hanging off the sides of the train, enjoying the subcontinent sunshine, while a splendidly uniformed buffet car representative tiptoes delicately amongst the huddled masses, offering tea and samosas.

From now on, those huddled masses might also be wielding smartphones, laptops and iPads and surfing the information superhighway, as we used to call the internet back in the last century. Google is collaborating with Indian Railways and RailTel to bring high-speed WiFi to 100 of the country’s busiest railway stations – serving over 10 million commuters a day at a stroke – by the end of 2016.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Goodness gracious me

Goodness gracious me

Google’s Alphabet complicates the simplification – an annotated infographic

August 12, 2015

Google has restructured to create a new holding company called Alphabet, separating its core web advertising business from newer ventures like driverless cars.

The planned structure resembles that employed by General Electric, with a central unit handling corporate-wide activities such as finance and relatively independent business units focused on specific areas.

Analysts have interpreted the move as an attempt to focus on some of its more ambitious projects in areas such as wearable devices, driverless cars, home automation and Internet connectivity.

The irony of this somewhat underwhelming announcement (it must be August for this to be such big news) is that one of the world’s biggest Web companies and technological tastemakers and leaders failed to check whether (a) the domain name Alphabet.com was available (it isn’t) and that the Twitter handle @Alphabet was available (it isn’t).

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Easy as A, B, err... G?

Easy as A, B, err… G?

#Apple still the world’s most valuable brand – least surprising news story of the day – an annotated infographic

February 19, 2015

In a news revelation on a par with such unremarkable headlines as “Earth still round”, “Pope still Catholic”, “Bears still pooping in the woods” and “Kanye West still a complete tool” comes the announcement that Apple has once again retained its top spot as the world’s most valuable brand, according to consultancy Brand Finance.

So, you’re telling us that Apple once again enjoyed both an embarrassment of riches and also a multitude of end-user warm fuzzies? No shizz, Sherlock.

The concept of being a valuable brand is based on perceived commercial value, derived from a combination of brand strength and financial data. It’s pretty clear that Apple scores highly on all fronts.

Arch-rivals Samsung, Google and Microsoft trail some distance behind, presumably peering desperately through the dust at Apple’s rapidly receding heels through their phablets, Glasses and Windows Phones. This just in from Apple HQ in Cupertino: “Nice to see ya: wouldn’t want to be ya!”

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Apple: Quite Popular

Apple: Quite Popular

Magic Leap’s tech vision explained, as #Google invests $542 million – an annotated infographic

November 27, 2014

Magic what now? Magic Leap, the little-known firm that has attracted $542 million of funding from Google and other wealthy backers.

Apart from wondering why all those involved settled on the unusual sum of 542 (why not 540 or 550?), this is clearly one heck of a lot of money for a company that might or might not have something interesting to bring to the world at some unspecified date in the future. Nice work if you can get it.

The four-year-old visual display company is developing its own eyeglasses-like device, designed to project computer-generated 3D images over real life settings. To be honest, this still doesn’t interest your humble E&T scribe all that much, but tech types seem to love it. Hence the uninhibited spunking of $542 million, mere chump change to them tech types.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Magic Leap: boing boing

Magic Leap: boing boing

#Microsoft to enter the #wearable technology sphere with new smartwatch – an annotated infographic

October 21, 2014

Ever-anxious to join in with what looks like a fun party to be at, Microsoft will shortly launch its own wearable device, according to Forbes.

With the likes of Apple, Google and Samsung already making headlines and – more importantly – money out of the wearable technology sector, it was inevitable that Microsoft would chime in at some point with another me-too gadget of its own. Zune, anyone?

According to the Forbes report, the device will be a smartwatch that will passively track a wearer’s heart rate and sync with different mobile platforms, including Apple iOS, Google Android and it’s own native Windows Phone. That seems a smart move on Microsoft’s part, not obliging a user to have a Windows PC or phone in order to use the watch. How it works in practice remains to be seen.

E&T news reported on this latest wearable technology story yesterday. E&T also had a smartwatch special issue of the magazine last year which covered the latest watch technology, both smart digital and smart analogue.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Microsoft: watch out

Microsoft: watch out

 

#Google announces Project Ara, the really smart smartphone – an annotated infographic

August 15, 2014

Project Ara is a modular cell phone that can be customised by swapping out individual pieces, such as the battery or camera.

The intention is that instead of buying a new smartphone, users can simply upgrade out-of-date elements or replace malfunctioning components. In this way, the Ara could have a useful working life of five or six years. Of course, any half-decent piece of equipment should have a shelf life of at least that amount of time, but other factors prevail, such as obsolescence-inducing OS upgrades.

With a $50 base price, Ara could bring smartphones to the six billion people around the world who currently cannot afford to buy one.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Project Ara smartphone

Project Ara smartphone

Ad agencies targetting marketing messages as #wearabletech #gadgets take off – an annotated infographic

July 8, 2014

Good news! As if we didn’t already have enough problems with spam e-mail, mobile pop-ups, video pre-roll and web tracking, now the advertising industry is targetting wearable technology, such as smart watches, as the next market in which to to inveigle their client’s inane wares. Whoop de doo. There’s a great Futurama scene where the gang are physically attacked by flying pop-up ads: disturbingly likely. Behold, the future.

Ah well, if you don’t buy in to wearable technology, you can safely avoid this whole hornet’s nest. There are no pop-up ads on an analogue watch.

Wearable technology is, of course, le buzz word du jour around the tech campuses of California and the world, what with Google weighing in with its Android watch.

E&T news tracks the wacky world of gadgets and consumer technology every day – bookmark our dynamically updated Gadgets news page for the latest and greatest.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Wearable technology ads

Wearable technology ads