Google Wants to Store All Your Photos and Videos for Free

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At its annual developers conference Google I/O on Thursday, Google unveiled a new standalone service that will store all your photos and videos for free. Google Photos is now available for Android, iOS and the Web.

Once you have Google Photos installed on your Android or iOS device, photos and videos will automatically be uploaded and stored on to the cloud. Photos and videos are stored in the cloud at full resolution, with limits on maximum quality – 16-megapixel for photos and 1080p for videos. If you want to store higher resolution images or videos, you can use your Google account storage that offers 15GB of free space shared between Google Drive, Gmail, and Google+ photos. Users can buy 1TB storage at $9.99 (Rs. 650) per month, or 100GB at $1.99 (Rs. 130) per month.

Google demoed the service on stage at I/O, and even though all images are stored on the cloud, browsing and scrolling through images looked pretty seamless. Google Photos also automatically detects people and places, without you needing to enter tags or any other types of categorisation. You can also use natural language search to find all photos that match a criteria (for example ‘food in Hawaii.’)

Google Photos comes with a built-in photo editor and collage maker. You can of course share images with others – even if they don’t use Google Photos. Simply dragging your finger around selects multiple images, eliminating the need to tap every image individually.

Google Unveils Android Pay to Challenge Apple in Mobile Payments

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Google on Thursday unveiled its pay-with-a-phone system for Android devices, ramping up its challenge to Apple in mobile payments.Android Pay, unveiled at the Google developers conference in San Francisco, brings together mobile carriers, payment networks, banks and retailers to allow smartphone users to use their handsets instead of payment cards.

Google engineering vice president Dave Burke said Android Pay would work in more than 700,000 US retail outlets that accept contactless payments.

“We are at the start of an exciting journey, we are working closely with payment networks, banks and developers,” he said.

Similar to the Apple Pay system unveiled last year, Android Pay will allow consumers to store credit card information on their handsets along with loyalty cards and other data.

For extra security, Android Pay will generate a one-time “token” or virtual account number so the actual credit card data is not revealed in a transaction.

“Users can simply and safely use their Android phone to pay in stores where you see an Android Pay logo,” Burke said.

“We are focused on simplicity, security and choice.”

Google said in February it was teaming up with the mobile phone payment firm Softcard to ramp up its efforts in the emerging sector.

This will allow Google Wallet to become a pre-installed “tap to pay” app on Android smartphones.

No date was announced for the roll-out of Android Pay but the Google statement said it would be “available on Google Play for download soon.”

Apple’s iOS and Android rule the global smartphone market, and the companies are eager to be at the potentially profitable heart of shopping or other financial transactions as consumers go increasingly mobile.

‘M’ for major?
Google announced that enhancements being built into a new “Android M” version of the mobile operating system include support for fingerprint-checking, which would match the feature built into Apple’s latest iPhones and iPads for security.

“The things they announced today are good, but the ‘M’ doesn’t stand for ‘Major,'” Current Analysis research director Avi Greengart told AFP at the gathering.

“Some of the improvements are Google playing catchup in payments and fingerprint recognition.”

Apple Pay also works with Apple Watch, essentially allowing users to pay with the waves of a wrist. The Android team gave no indication if their new Pay feature will extend to smartwatches.

Google did show off a slew of upgrades for Android-powered smartwatches, such as gesture controls and being able to distinguish between actions such as push ups and golf club swings.

“We love watches,” Android Wear director David Singleton said during an on-stage presentation.

“They have always been this incredible mix of beauty and technology.”

He said Google is partnering with an array of hardware makers to add to the current line-up of seven different kinds of Android smartwatches.

There are more than 4,000 applications tailored for Android-powered smartwatches.

The Apple Watch is fueling the emerging smartwatch market and is expected to be the top seller in the segment for next few years, according to a market research report released early in May.

Fun, functional or hip applications made by the kinds of software wizards packed into the Google developers conference here are seen as vital to the popularity of smartwatches and smartphones.

Android M's Google 'Now on Tap' Will Provide Contextual Info Within Apps on Demand

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Google’s updated Android mobile software seeks to make the smartphone smarter, while keeping the search titan relevant in a world where people rely on apps on the go.At its annual Google developers conference Thursday, Google offered a preview of Android M, due for release later this year, with an upgraded version of “Google Now,” the voice-activated assistant which competes with rivals like Apple’s Siri andMicrosoft’s Cortana.

Google will take the software a step further by allowing users to activate the assistant software, even if they are using another application, to find relevant information on their phones.

“Your smartphone ought to be smarter,” Google Now director Aparna Chennapragada said while demonstrating the new feature on-stage at the developers conference in San Francisco.

“Why can’t it tell you to pick up the milk that your spouse text messaged you about?”

Google Now cards on smartphones already tap into calendars, emails and other information, with user permission, to do things such as remind people when to leave to catch flights or where they parked their cars.

“Now on Tap” would build on that capability, and allow it to be layered over third-party applications on Android smartphones.

Chennapragada demonstrated by playing a song using streaming music applicationSpotify, then asking aloud who was singing. Now on Tap responded by showing the artist along with online information about him and the band.

“You can get information instantly,” Chennapragada said.

“The article you are reading, the music you are listening to, the key is understanding the context of the moment. You are able to get answers to quick questions.”

Broadening the reach of Now also lets Google’s money-making services tag along with smartphone users shifting from using web browsing programs to accessing online services directly from individual applications.

Developers will essentially be letting Google index applications learn more about people’s habits and behaviors to better target ads and keep people loyal to its online services, according to Current Analysis research director Avi Greengart.

“This helps Google at least as much as it helps developers,” Greengart told AFP at the gathering.

“At the end of the day, it feeds into Google advertising. It may go through different funnels, but that is how Google makes money.”

Google Intensifies Focus on Its Cardboard Virtual Reality Device

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Google has seen the future, and it is littered with cardboard boxes.At its Google I/O developer conference here Thursday, the search giant announced several programs that aim to put its virtual reality viewer, called Cardboard, at the center of a growing online world in which people can use their smartphone andYouTube to watch videos rendered in 3D.

Google introduced its virtual reality viewer – a cardboard box, with some lenses and a magnet, that looks a lot like a plastic View-Master toy – as a gift at last year’s I/O conference.

The idea was to create an inexpensive virtual reality device that allowed anyone with a smartphone to do things like fly through a Google Earth map of Chicago or view personal pictures in three dimensions.

It is a comically simple contraption: A smartphone slips into the front so it sits just inches from a user’s eyes. Peering through a pair of cheap, plastic lenses renders the images on the phone’s screen in 3D. It costs around $4.

Typical of the Google playbook, the company put Cardboard’s specifications online so hobbyists and manufacturers could build them.

In the year since, people have made viewers from foam, aluminum and walnut, and the Cardboard app was downloaded 1 million or so times.

“We wanted the viewer to be as dumb as possible and as cheap as possible because we basically wanted to open VR for everyone,” said David Coz, an engineer in Google’s Paris office who developed Cardboard.

At this year’s I/O, Google is doubling down on Cardboard with initiatives meant to expand virtual reality to as many phones as possible. First of these is a new software kit that will make it easier for developers to build Cardboard apps for iPhones. The company also redesigned the cardboard hardware so that it is easier to fold and can now accommodate any smartphone, including popular, larger-screen, so-called phablets.

The Cardboard update is a modest offering compared with the product splashes of previous Google conferences, which have included a spherical entertainment system that was never released and Google Glass, the much hyped and now discontinued computerized eyewear that caused significant privacy concerns.

With Cardboard, Google’s virtual reality is decidedly low cost and low frills, but, as in other Google efforts, like the free Android software that is the most widely used operating system in the world, it seems meant more to amass an audience than make money.

Over the last year, Google has developed a 360-degree camera that looks like a chandelier rigged with 16 GoPro video recorders, and currently has about a dozen of them filming sights around the world. When run through Google’s software and processors, the footage will turn into a virtual reality rendering that tries to mimic the view from a human eye. Google said it would allow people to start uploading virtual reality videos to YouTube this summer.

During a recent demonstration at Google’s Mountain View, California, campus, Clay Bavor, vice president for product management for Google’s virtual reality efforts, demonstrated a video of a courtyard at the University of Washington. The video felt like an immersive version of the company’s Street View mapping product that displays street-level views of city streets and historical sites.

Over time, the company is hoping this real-life version of virtual reality will grow into a vast collection of videos and experiences similar to how YouTube videos are shared now.

Google also said Thursday it had formed a partnership with GoPro to develop a version of its virtual reality recorder that anybody could buy. The companies did not list a price for the recorder, but given that it has 16 cameras that retail for $400 each, it is likely to be expensive.

Where any of this goes is anyone’s guess. One might imagine videos from the front row of a concert or a television channel filming breaking news in 3D. At the same time, one might remember that Google has a history of announcing new products and initiatives that flop, like Google Glass.

And virtual reality has for decades been the next big thing that never actually happened.

Now companies like Facebook, Sony and Microsoft are placing big bets on both virtual reality, a computer-generated version of the world, as well as augmented reality, or AR, in which real-world experiences are enhanced with computer-generated images.

Analysts expect the first applications will be in video games. But in time they say virtual reality experiences could feature in everything from business meetings to doctor’s appointments.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has on several occasions said he believed virtual reality could be the next computing platform. That belief is enough to drive significant investment.

“The shift from desktop to mobile caught so many off guard and so dramatically impacted the competitive landscape, every tech and media company is going to have to be prepared for just the possibility that VR/AR will become the next platform,” wrote Ben Schachter, an analyst with Macquarie Securities.

At its conference, Google also announced Google Photos, a photo app that comes with free, unlimited storage of the uncountable numbers of photos that people amass on their devices. There were new search features that allow people to do things like use their thumb to search for a restaurant in their text messages, instead of opening a new application.

In addition, the company outlined a new operating system, Brillo, that is based on Android and will allow household devices like refrigerators and thermostats to talk to one another and their owner’s phone. Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president for products, suggested that users could use it to turn on their oven with a voice command.

Cardboard was the final act of the show, which featured a giant screen that wrapped around a San Francisco auditorium as if to mimic the experience of being immersed in a deep, three-dimensional world.

Beyond the virtual reality videos it plans on putting on YouTube, Google is also using its Cardboard device in its growing education efforts. Over the last year, the company has been running a trial called Expeditions in about 100 classrooms, in which teachers can use the viewers to take their students on a tour of world sites.

Last year, Google invested $542 million in Magic Leap, a Florida company that is developing augmented reality technology that creates imaginative images like an elephant that can fit in one’s hand. And Bavor said the company had made “a significant investment” in virtual reality that goes well beyond the efforts presented at I/O.

He would not say how much money or how many full-time employees are dedicated to these efforts, but virtual reality has grown to occupy a small building on Google’s sprawling Mountain View campus.

“The upshot is we are making a big investment in VR and this whole space well beyond Cardboard,” Bavor said. “This reality-capture system and amazing software that powers it, that has been a yearlong investment and is just one of the many things we have brewing.”

Apple Fails to Disqualify Antitrust Monitor in Ebooks Case

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A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected Apple Inc’s bid to disqualify an antitrust compliance monitor appointed after the technology company was found liable for conspiring with five publishers to raise ebook prices.While saying some allegations against the monitor Michael Bromwich “give pause,” the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said a lower court judge did not abuse her discretion in rejecting Apple’s bid to end his two-year appointment early.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote installed Bromwich through a permanent injunction in October 2013, three months after she ruled in favor of the U.S. Department of Justice by finding that Apple had played a “central role” in conspiring to raise ebook prices and impede rivals such as Amazon Inc.

The Cupertino, California-based company is appealing that decision. Apple separately entered a $450 million settlement of related claims by 31 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and consumers, contingent on the decision being upheld.

Apple had claimed that Bromwich collaborated improperly with the Justice Department and the states, was too aggressive in demanding interviews with executives, and charged hourly fees that began at $1,100 before being cut to $1,000, an amount revealed on Thursday.

For his part, Bromwich, a lawyer, has faulted Apple for refusing to provide access and adopting an “adversarial tone” toward him.

Writing for the appeals court, Circuit Judge Dennis Jacobs criticized Bromwich for submitting an affidavit supporting the plaintiffs when they opposed Apple’s request to halt his work.

“Bromwich’s submission in conjunction with a litigant’s brief was the opposite of best practice for a court-appointed monitor,” and may raise “an appearance of impropriety,” Jacobs wrote.

But Jacobs said Cote’s injunction “contemplates at least some interaction” between Bromwich and the plaintiffs, and that Cote need not disqualify him for that or for his billing rate, “rich as it may be.”

Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock, Apple’s lawyer Theodore Boutrous, and Bromwich’s spokeswoman declined to comment.

In a concurring opinion, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman faulted Apple for being slow to object to Bromwich’s actions.

“The company largely sat on its hands, allowing issues with the monitor to fester and the relationship to deteriorate,” he wrote.

A Justice Department spokesman welcomed Thursday’s decision, and said Apple “could have obviated this entire appeal” by raising concerns about Bromwich faster.

The publishers are Lagardere SCA’s Hachette, News Corp’s HarperCollins, Penguin Group, CBS Corp’s Simon & Schuster and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH’s Macmillan.

The case is U.S. v. Apple Inc, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 14-60.

US Unveils Plan to Subsidise Broadband for Low-Income Households

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The top US telecom regulator on Thursday unveiled plans to subsidise high-speed Internet for low-income households, saying the service was essential for people trying to better themselves.Federal Communications chairman Tom Wheeler proposed the plan to overhaul the “Lifeline” program which provides low-cost telephone service to include online access as well.

“Broadband access is essential to find a job – more than 80 percent of Fortune 500 job openings are online,” Wheeler said in a blog post.

“Americans need broadband to keep a job, as companies increasingly require basic digital literacy skills. We rely on broadband to manage and receive healthcare, and to help our children do their homework.”

But Wheeler said nearly 30 percent of Americans, mostly low-income households, still lack broadband access.

“While more than 95 percent of households with incomes over $150,000 have broadband, only 48 percent of those making less than $25,000 have the service at home,” he said.

“A world of broadband ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ is a world where none of us will have the opportunity to enjoy the full fruits of what broadband has to offer.”

Wheeler said nearly half of low-income Americans have had to cancel or suspend smartphone services due to financial hardship.

The initiative is likely to face obstacles, especially from some lawmakers who have complained about the “Obamaphone” program, even though it dates back to 1985 and the Reagan administration.

Earlier this year, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana called Lifeline “one of the most corrupt federal programs in recent memory” and called for tougher efforts to curb fraud and abuse.

But Kristine DeBry of the advocacy group Public Knowledge welcomed the initiative, saying that “people increasingly depend on the Internet for access to jobs, education, news, services, communications, and everything else under the sun.”

She said the plan follows “a long, bipartisan tradition of ensuring that all Americans have access to basic communications services.”

Delhi Government Smart City Plans Include Paperless Services, Smart Cards, and More

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The Delhi government is trying to integrate transport, health and power sector services through technology and Internet to make the national capital a smart city.As part of the initiative, the city government is moving towards a paperless citizen service which will enable users to access government documents through the Internet.

“There are 219 forms for different services like birth and death certificates. At present one needs to take a day off and go to a government office, stand in a queue and chances are high that they have to pay bribe to the officer for the service. The entire process takes three days.

“So we are in process of identifying various services where with proper authentication and digital signature one can take a printout sitting at home or at office.Therefore, cutting more layers of corruption and bringing efficiency,” Parliamentary Secretary to minister of IT, Adarsh Shastri said.

Likewise in the transport sector, government is planning to bring smart cards for all modes of transport.

“Delhi has moved to multi-transport system. We have buses, autos, cabs, metro and the process is to integrate it all together and issue single card which can be used to access all transport modes. Through this card one can pay in the metro bus and even pay for the parking and toll taxes,” Shastri said.

The city government is following the example of London where one card is used to pay for boat, bus, metro and parking. The move will also help government track the vehicle and improve the safety mechanism in transport sector.

Similarly in the health sector, government is planning to give health cards to each citizen and entire data of the card holder along with his medical history will be stored in it.

“If a patient goes to any hospital or dispensary then through this card his entire medical history, how many times the patient has visited a hospital, name of the doctor he has consulted along with medicines prescribed and his reports will come before the doctor treating him.

“We are also trying to make the entire bed availability system online by integrating all the hospitals and medical institutions so that doctors can check availability of beds and medicine on real time basis,” Shastri said.

According to government, the move will help end corruption and increase efficiency. Similar system is being followed in US and Europe.

In the power sector, government is trying to introduce smart street lights.

Officials said street lighting power efficiency is low and it consumes lot of electricity.

World over countries have started using smart street lighting depending upon ambient lighting.Street lighting works on the basis of surrounding light as requirement is different in summers and winters.

“Smart street lights decide at what time how much light is needed. Through this we can save 30 per cent of light,” Shastri said.

Government is also working on grid metering through which a user can produce electricity by installing solar power system.

“If a user generates power through solar panel, then smart meters can be installed which will communicate directly with billing system without human intervention.If one generates one KW of energy at home in a day and daily consumption is three KW then he will be billed for only two KW,” Shastri said.

OnePlus Two Purportedly Benchmarked Again, Tips Snapdragon 810 SoC and More

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OnePlus One’s successor, soon after being spotted at GeekBench benchmark, has again made an appearance on a Chinese benchmarking website. The purportedOnePlus Two comes with model number A2003 which is different from the OnePlus One A2001 spotted last week at GeekBench benchmark results. The new model number hints that there might be two separate OnePlus Two variants in the works.For specifications, OnePlus Two features similar specifications as rumoured in previous weeks including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor; 3GB of RAM; full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) display; 5-megapixel front camera, and Adreno 430 GPU. Contradicting previously leaked specifications, the Chinese benchmark website tips a 13-megapixel rear camera on the OnePlus Two, instead of a 16-megapixel camera. Some of the other rumoured specifications of the OnePlus Two include a 3300mAh battery; 4G LTE; GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Micro-USB and OTG connectivity.

Update : Oneplus one updated with marshamallow OS.

An Italian site also speculates that OnePlus can reveal the Two smartphone alongside HydrogenOS, which is set to release on Thursday.

OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei earlier this month while talking to his Weibo followers about Two smartphone tipped the price and ‘nearly’ confirmed the processor for the handset. We already know that the OnePlus One successor will be released in Q3 2015. Pei agreed with some of his followers who had suggested a price of CNY 2,499 (roughly Rs. 25,000).

So far there has been no announcement from OnePlus on the precise launch date of the Two smartphone.

Samsung Acknowledges Galaxy S6 Clear View Cover Is Causing Scratches

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Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge owners around the globe seem are facing an issue with the official Clear View cover for their smartphones that features a transparent flip cover and can even register touch inputs.

According to several posts by users on the XDA forum, the Clear View cover by Samsung is said to be the culprit for several minute yet visible scratches on the handset’s Corning Gorilla Glass 4-protected display. Users are posting images of tiny scratches on the screen on almost brand new Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge handsets. The scratches are said to happen due to abrasive materials and hard debris that come between the display and the case’s flap. Besides the handset display, the device’s home button is also said to be affected.

samsung_galaxy-s6-edge-scratched-clear-view-case_xda.jpgUsers who got in touch with Samsung have been told that the firm is aware of the issue and is currently investigating it. Users also add they are being told the firm is planning a fix or compensation for the affected users. SamMobile also reports that Samsung is looking into the issue.

Meanwhile, Google has launched new limited-edition smartphone cases with Grammy-winning producer, Skrillex. The search engine giant has announced that this is the first of its series of limited-edition smartphone cases. Called Enter Editions, the limited-edition cases are meant for select Nexus and Samsung Android smartphones including LG Google Nexus 5, Motorola Google Nexus 6, Samsung Galaxy S5, Samsung Galaxy S6, and Samsung Galaxy Note 4. The highlight of the Enter limited-edition cases by Skrillex is it shows live wallpapers shot by Skrillex’s satellite from the stratosphere.

Large Hadron Collider Breaks Record, Says Cern

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The world’s largest particle smasher broke the record for energy levels late Wednesday in a test run after a two-year upgrade, Cern announced Thursday.”Last night, protons collided in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the record-breaking energy of 13 TeV (teraelectronvolts) for the first time,” the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) said in a statement.

The LHC’s previous highest energy for collisions was eight TeV, reached in 2012.

In April, it started up again after a two-year overhaul designed to pave the way to experiments at 13 TeV. It has the potential to be cranked up to 14 TeV.

Experiments at the collider are aimed at unlocking clues as to how the universe came into existence by studying fundamental particles, the building blocks of all matter, and the forces that control them.

Before the upgrade, the LHC was used to prove the existence of the Higgs Boson, also known as the God particle, which confers mass.

That discovery earned the 2013 Nobel physics prize for two of the scientists who had theorised the existence of the Higgs back in 1964.

Wednesday’s collisions at the giant lab, housed in a 27-kilometre (17-mile) tunnel straddling the French-Swiss border, are part of a recommissioning programme ahead of an even more ambitious roster of experiments, due to start next month.

“These test collisions were to set up systems that protect the machine and detectors from particles that stray from the edges of the beam,” Cern said.

The LHC allows beams containing billions of protons travelling at 99.9 percent the speed of light to shoot through the massive collider in opposite directions.

Powerful magnets bend the beams so that they collide at points around the track where four laboratories have batteries of sensors to monitor the smashups.

The sub-atomic rubble is then scrutinised for novel particles and the forces that hold them together.

One teraelectronvolt is roughly equivalent to the energy of motion of a flying mosquito, Cern says on its website.

But within the LHC, the energy is squeezed into an extremely small space about a million, million times smaller than a mosquito. It is this intensity which causes the particles to be smashed apart.