Google Launches Project Blocks to teach kids to code

Google announced Project Bloks, an open hardware platform that allows developers to build their own devices and is aimed at helping kids learn to code.

From Googles Creative Lab Goldstein and Wilbert worked together with IDEO and Paulo Blikstein, the Director of Transformative Learning Technologies Lab at Stanford University to develop this project.

The platform has 3 parts that make up the development system to allow for customization, reconfiguration, and rearrangement.

three boards.jpg

The first part is called the “Brain Board,” which is a Raspberry Pi Zero based board. The board will be the central processing unit and power unit. The Brain Board talks to the “Pucks” and “Base Board,” which make up the physical programming language. The board contains an API to receive and send data to the Base Boards. It sends the instructions from the Base Board to any device with WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity and an API.

Pucks are used to send commands such as ‘turn on or off’, ‘move left’ or ‘jump’. Google shows the use of buttons, dials, and switches, however you are able to use different forms such as paper with conductive ink. Pucks.jpg

The Base Board reads the commands from the Pucks and transmits them to the Brain Board. The Base Board has haptic motors and an LED to allow users to get real-time feedback. It can also be used to play audio using the speakers that come on the Brain Board. image08

In the introduction video kids use Bloks to control a Lego WeDo 2.0 robot. Project Bloks may pave the way for a new way of learning how to code and build systems for kids.

“Imagine what could happen if we had 10 times more people developing ways for children to learn coding and computational thinking: not just the traditional way, but kits that would teach programming in different ways such as making music or controlling the physical world,” Blikstein said in a statement. “That is what this platform will enable: make it easy to think outside of the box, without all the technical obstacles.”

Google is looking for educators, developers, parents and researchers, from around the world to remotley participate in research studies later in the year. You can sign up for the study here.

Alphabet aims to beam high speed internet wirelessly

Alphabet, Googles parent company, has a project that is aimed at wireless high speed internet access.

According to Chairman Eric Schmidt at the annual shareholder meeting it’s cheaper and today’s technology makes it viable. Improved computer chips and accurate “targeting of wireless signals,” could allow the company to transmit internet connections at a gigabit per second. More popularly Googles Google Fiber promised gigabit speeds with its fiber-optic network.

The technology is reportedly being tested in Kansas City, which was also used to test Google Fiber. If Alphabet figures out how to make the technology work, they could effectively cut down the timeline for gigabit internet speeds that it boasted through Google Fiber.

Google is making chatbots with human level speech abilities.

Google is known to work on innovative, futuristic, technology. AI is on of them, though one of their AI projects is more chatty.

At a Singularity conference engineers from Google revealed that they have been working on chatbots. Ray Kurzweil, a computer scientist and futurist, and his team announced that these chatbots will be released later this year.

“That’s very relevant to what I’m doing at Google,” Kurzweil said in the interview. “My team, among other things, is working on chatbots. We expect to release some chatbots you can talk to later this year.”

These chatbots will be human like robots that can converse with you much like a human would. One of the chatbots named Danielle has its speech tailored after a books character. Kurzweil said people could make their own unique chatbot by feeding it samples of writing, this would allow bots to have different types of personalities.

He did go on to say that it would take some time for bots to have human level language abilities, so these bots might not work the way you would want them to, atleast for now. Kurzweil states we’ll have to wait till 2029 when AI will be able to pass the Turing test, which would make them indistinguishable from real people.

Raspberry Pi gets Android OS Support

Raspberry Pi has been one of the greatest inventions of our time for users who want to learn about computing, programming, coding, and just about everything else related to computers.

The Raspberry Pi is a tiny ARM computer that is mostly branded at those wishing to learn or have a multitude of DYI projects that are waiting to get started. It provides open source software, comes in a small size, and has ports and various boards.

The latest is the Raspberry Pi 3, which goes for $35. It comes with a 1.2GHz 64-bit Broadcam BCM2837 ARMv8 CPU, 1GB RAM, a VideoCore IV GPU, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.1. It also allows users to add components via external devices, such as a MicroSD card.

Raspberry Pi have mostly have had Linux support and recently Windows 10 IoT core support though Google has officially given support for Android on the Raspberry Pi. The company recently registered the Raspberry Pi 3 as a new device tree in its Android Open Source Project (AOSP) repository.

The support on Android will give access to Pi users to the million plus apps and who knows that support might mean access to DayDream, Googles newest VR developers platform in the near future.

The newest features in Android N

The beta for the latest version of Android has been released and here are some of the biggest changes.

Multitasking

MultiTasking

Androids lack of multitasking has been an annoyance considering other companies such as Apple have come out with the ability to multitask, but now with the Android N you finally get multitasking on phones. The split-screen feature works on phones and tablets by holding down the task-switching button. Not all apps are available for split-screen for example Instagram though other work just fine, you can use YouTube and hangouts with no problem.

You can also double tap the task-switching button to open up the most recently used app, Google calls it Quick Switch. You also get the Clear All button located at the top right, so you can close all your apps at once.

Notifications

Notifications

The notifications bar and shading have changed. Icons are much tighter, make better use of space, and offer more functionality such as being able to see more information or expand notifications.You can also control how you can receive alerts from apps in the future by long pressing on each notification. So users can block notifications that are constantly sent out to them. You can also customize the top 5 icons that are shown in the notification bar.

Settings

The settings menu has changed, the first thing you will notice is suggestions at the very top. Suggestions offers settings changes for things you might not have setup such as email linking or voice commands. Each option also gives you relevant information so you don’t need to open up the option, you can see number of apps installed, storage capacity, battery life, and more right from the main menu.

Keyboard Themes

With Android N you also get stock keyboard themes for Google keyboard. You can choose various colors, or add custom backgrounds from your images, and you can add or remove borders between keys. It might not seem like a big update but its pretty fun.

Performance

Android N is adopting a new graphics API called Vulkan, which is used in PC gaming. Vulkan helps deliver better visual performance so you’ll likely notice a change in graphics. Android N also has a new JIT compiler, which Google says will improve battery life. It will make apps 50 percent smaller and increase installation speed by 75 percent.

New Emojis!

EmojisGoogle is updating its set of emoji for Android N. They’ve also proposed including 13 new emoji to represent professional women in the Unicode Consortium.

Virtual Reality

Android N has been built to be completely compatible with Google’s new Android powered VR platform called Daydream. As of now there’s only speculations based off the design specs and information we received from the first day of Google I/O.

Easter Egg

Easter EggGoogle has always traditionally put an Easter egg in the latest releases of Android. These Easter eggs are hidden and can be accessed by tapping the version number of Android in system settings. Android M had a new M logo and a Flappy Bird style game where you try to save a green android from marshmallows and its now followed suit in Android N. Though this is just the beta and a name has not been picked for Android N, Google is looking at you for help in naming it. You can go here #NameAndroidN, and submit your own name, just make sure it starts with the letter N and its sweet and sugary.

Daydream: Google’s new VR headset

We’ve all heard of Google Cardboard, the cheap and affordable solution to virtual reality, though compared to the powerhouses such as Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive, it really falls short. Though it looks like the rumors were true and Google finally announced their next, official, VR platform: Daydream.

While the company did not show off a physical headset, they showed sketches of a headset and controller for developers. The controller is very simple and comes in an ovular design with a few buttons, a clickable and touchable touchpad. As of now there’s not alot to go on though the company states that the latest version of Android: Android N, is made to work completely with Daydream. So we’ll be seeing a lot of new apps and integration with Googles VR platform. Currently the company is partnered with Hulu, HBO, IMAX, and Netflix, along with game studios Ubisoft and EA.

Firebase: Googles unified mobile developers platform

Google has a reputation for persuading developers to work on their platform, so its no surprise when the company announced Firebase, that gave a dedicated platform and SDK for building mobile apps. Today the company announced the expansion of these services through new features and integration with cloud tools.

Firebase was akin to Facebooks parse, offering a database service and hosting tools. The newest version of Firebase takes existing developer tools and combines them with Firebase services, turning it into a single unified app platform.

It features deep analytic services, much like Google Analytics, there’s a connection to the platform or in this case the app that you want to get data from. Developes can link apps with Firebase and see how often and whenever a button is pressed. This allows developers to anaylze app performance and user behavior. Developers also have access to make remote configuration changes in apps to allow for  a variety of things such as A/B testing, changes in apps to allow for more interaction with users, changes in games to make them easier, and engage with your users.

Another new feature is Firebase’s new notifications system, which is based on Google Cloud Messaging, now known as Firebase Cloud Messaging. Firebase now supports iOS, Android, and the Web, and users get free unlimited notifications.

Google is also integrating Cloud Test Lab into Firebase for testing mobile apps on real hardware, which is no known as the Firebase Test lab. Developers also get crash reporting, the ability to create dynamic deep links in apps, Firebase invites to allow users to share referral codes, Firebase App indexing to integrate app content into Google Search, and integration with Google AdWords and AdMob, Googles advertising platforms.

Along with a new pricing plan developers can also get access to a free but limited version.

Instant Apps for Android by Google

Mobile apps have become a part of the user experience culture, there’s almost an app for everything and anything. Though to get the apps you have to search them, download them, and then install them. This can be daunting for some but mostly is an already convenient approach, but Google wants to take it a step further and redefine what apps are and how users interact with them. Googles solution Instant Apps.

Instant Apps were announced today during Google I/O developer conference. Its a new Android feature that will allow users to use native apps instantly. This new feature allows developers to partition their apps into small parts that are able to start within seconds. The apps are meant to also replace mobile sites. Google demonstrated this by giving an example of paying for parking. You place your phone near the parking meter, the phones built-in NFC chip read the info, and the native app pops up speedily. If you close the instant app it disappears and stays in the cache for a few hours. For developers Instant Apps are built using existing apps, so users can download only necessary parts of the app instead of the entire app. Developers will need to use Android M or Android N permissions to make these apps and they cannot exceed 4MB.

One interesting thing is that Instant Apps will work on Android Jelly Bean devices and up, it’s not specifically for Android N. Google wants most of their users to be able to take advantage of Instant Apps. They are also compatible with Android app links to be able to launch Instant Apps through existing links, using Google Play services. So those devices that don’t have Google Play wont be able to use Instant Apps.

 

 

Google I/O What to expect

Google I/O is Google’s annual developer conference, a three day conference for developers mto get the latest update from Google on the newest innovations that the company has to offer.

Last year we saw Android M, Android Pay, Google Photos, and Google Cardboard, the company’s VR headset. Here’s what we can expect to see this year.

AI

Lets begin with AI for no other reason than the fact that anyone who is interested in AI has kept up with Google for the past few months. Google has done a lot of work with AI and have persuaded developers to work on their open-sourced AI software. Though the most interesting accomplishment happened when Googles DeepMind AlphaGo AI beat world champion Lee Sedol in one of the most complex games in the world, Go. So it’s not surprising that we might see more innovation from Google on the AI frontier.

Android N 

There’s been a lot of buzz about Android N, the next generation of Google’s smartphone and tablet operating system. Earlier this year in March the company released a developer preview. Android N will have new features such as split-app multitasking, increased battery efficiency, and the ability to reply from within notifications. Like last year we can assume the conference will be heavily influenced by Android N and the latest updates.

Nexus 7

Google recently launched Pixel C, its latest tablet replacement for the Nexus 9. Though it hasn’t had the popularity that Google might have been expecting there have been many rumors that Google would bring back the Nexus 7 tablet.

Chrome OS

Google released its cloud-based operating system seven years go and it has had many mixed reviews, though it’s definitely tilting on the more favorable side for many. We might see new updates to the OS and some integration with Android to create a more single environment.

VR

Its been a big year for reality with so many options from Facebook, Samsung, Sony, and HTC that makes it seem as if Google is falling behind with its Cardboard. Though not to worry as a credible rumor has spread indicating that there will be a new version of Android VR shown at the conference. Which means we might also see more on Project Tango, the experimental augmented-reality software that Google has been working on for some time now.

 

Chirp

It sounds strange at first but when tech website Recode reported last week that Google was designing a competitor to the Amazon Echo code named “Chirp” heads started to turn. Google is already capable of creating advanced virtual assistants and has had made great efforts in voice-recognition, so it makes it all the more likely that Google would create something that it has the ability to create, especially since Google has been developing inside the Internet of Things realm.

Autonomous Cars

In Google I/O 2015 the company announced that its self-driving cars would be driven on California streets. So far there have been great news for self-driving cars, especially Googles’, except for that one incident where an autonomous car crashed into a bus, which was blamed on human error. Google also posted about a potential partnership with Chysler to build autonomous vehicles. We’re sure to see new updates and news for Googles self-driving car.

There are a lot more things to expect from this years Google I/O including Project Tango, Project ARA, Android Wear, Project FI, an update on Nest, and more. Google I/O begins at 10:00 am Pacific Time on Wednesday May 18, don’t miss it! Look out for the app or head over to their official website to watch live streams.

Google might be making a high end VR

Virtual Reality is becoming a thing of the present with many companies including tech giants Microsoft and Facebook coming out with their virtual reality devices. Google also jumped into this market with their Cardboard, though for a company that innovates and creates technology such as self driving cars and enhanced glasses, cardboard seems out of date and almost irrelevant. Which is why it was big news when entrepreneur and tech journalist Peter Rojas tweeted that Google will be announcing Android VR.

 

Rojas also states that Android VR will be less powerful than the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift.

Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive cost around $300 and are bulky this is one of the reasons why Cardboard was so popular, you can get one for $15, insert your phone and start using it. In the past Google has spent more efforts in getting developers to produce VR content. The price and the ease of use with the Cardboard is what it seems like Google is following.

Samsung is currently one of the cheapest and best options for Smartphone VRs coming in at $99, though the only problem is that you have to have a Galaxy or Note device to use the Gear VR headset. Though that did not stop the popularity of the VR headset, Samsung had more than one million users on the Gear VR last month.

We’ll have to wait and see at Google I/O just how Google will make an affordable yet powerful VR that can deliver high end optics.