Google Announces Plans To Open Artificial Intelligence Lab in China

A photo of Google's Beijing office.

Google’s Beijing office.
Photo credit: testing / Shutterstock

Google’s business has been largely absent from China since 2010, when the company pulled many of its core businesses out. Now, though, Google is returning to China with the announcement of a new Chinese center devoted to artificial intelligence. This is a small gesture but a strong symbolic move that represents the tech giant returning to the most populous nation on earth.

Google largely pulled out of China seven years ago, citing government controls and surveillance initiatives that ran counter to its guiding philosophy of a free and open internet. Since then, however, China has made a resurgence as one of the world’s leading tech powers. This is why, as The New York Times reported, Google is putting a team of experts in Beijing for further research and development of AI. The office will be led by Fei-Fei Li, who’s currently in charge of the AI lab at Stanford. She will join Jia Li, the head of AI research and development for Google Cloud.

“We have 600-plus employees in China, and we had a similar number in 2010,” Google spokesman Taj Meadows told the Times. “Roughly half of them are engineers working on global products. Work on A.I. will be in a similar vein.”

Google is not the only tech company to capitalize on the progress China has made in recent years. Microsoft and IBM are also hard at work on hiring Chinese staff members. This movement coincides with efforts from the Chinese government to upgrade the country’s tech infrastructure and move away from foreign-made hardware and software.

The relationship between Google and China continues to evolve. In 2010, the company said that it could no longer tolerate China’s stance on censorship, as well as the government’s alleged hacking of some human rights activists’ Gmail accounts. Google never left China entirely, though, and it now looks poised to rebuild its presence among the world’s largest population of internet users.

Social Media to Cut Down on Fake News

A collage of several social media logos.

Image credit: quka / Shutterstock

There is no doubt about it: fake news played a huge part in this year’s presidential election. Anyone with a Facebook account was surely slammed with stories about both candidates, often coming from unfamiliar sources.

Now Facebook and Google are making sure fake news isn’t so abundant going forward.

The tech giants will be banning all fake news publishers from using their ad-selling services. Facebook will no longer allow any ads from fake sites to be placed on any third party apps or affiliated websites because the content falls under their “illegal, misleading, or deceptive” category. Google will block any site that misrepresents the truth, and any publisher that tries to push through these barriers will be permanently banned from Google AdSense.

“Moving forward, we will restrict ad serving on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose of the web property,” a rep for Google said in a statement.

While this may seem fruitless (especially after the election) this is actually pretty big news. If publishers can’t make money from fake news sites, they will be less likely to publish them.

While some sites are obviously illegitimate (particularly those that are extremely partisan) many are covert in how they operate, usually by stealing the name of well-known news source and adding letters to the web link. For example, Fox News is www.foxnews.com, but a fake source would print news from www.foxnews.com.co. Not hard to grasp how so many were quick to believe what they were reading when the address bar looks so familiar.

Although these actions are met with open arms, Mark Zuckerberg believes Facebook is being unfairly accused of playing a role in the fake news phenomenon.

“Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebookof which it’s a small amount of contentinfluenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea,” Zuckerberg said.

Technological Highlights of the 90s

Desk with Mac computer, keyboard, and tablet

The tech development in the 90s has brought us to today, when business and tech are even more intertwined.
Image: Unsplash

The tech industry is known for developing businesses that rise incredibly fast.

In the 1990s, there was an economic boom that saw billions of dollars in venture capital poured into technology companies in hopes of finding the “next big thing.” It was a time when the world witnessed some of the greatest scientific findings and technological inventions.

Fast-forward to 2016, and we now have advanced computers, mobile phones, satellite mapping, advanced software, and more.  The scope of technological advancement has significantly increased and remains exponential.

What were some of the major technological highlights of the 1990s? Let’s take a trip down memory lane:

Revival of electric cars
The American government enforced the Clean Air Act in 1990, which requested automobile companies to create cleaner and more fuel-efficient cars. The energy crisis and environmental concerns regarding pollution in the 1970s resulted in the revival of public interest in electric cars. Electric cars came into existence in the mid 1990s and continue to gain popularity. The 1990 Los Angeles Auto Show marked a milestone in the electric car industry.

The rise of Yahoo! and Google
Founded by David Filo and Jerry Yang in 1994, Yahoo! started as a collection of informative web pages, later becoming an online searchable directory. Led by Thom Weisel, Montgomery Securities, one of the largest investment firms at that time, helped manage Yahoo’s IPOs during the rise of tech stocks. During the dot-com bubble, the company’s stock price skyrocketed to an all-time high of $118.75 USD in 2000.

Considered one of the biggest inventions of all time, Google happened in 1998. Started as a research project by two scholars at Stanford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brin introduced the concept of page rankings in search engines. Google served over 10,000 search queries a day and quickly gained a reputation as a trustworthy source of information. By 1999, it was serving 500,000 queries a day.

Apple’s iMac
The iMac was launched in 1998 and was known for its innovative computer experience and unique design. During that time, personal computers were dull beige boxes involving minimal artistry. Apple took this opportunity to reinvent the computer with bold designs and outlandish colors.

Apple’s vision for computers hasn’t changed in the last 30 years, when the first Mac ads told people to “try the computer you already know how to use.”

Bluetooth 1.0
Mobile wireless file sharing was introduced in 1999 with the invention of Bluetooth technology, allowing electronic devices to communicate wirelessly. Portable personal computers and laptops were the first devices to use Bluetooth technology; it’s now a standard feature in all smartphones.

The tech industry continues to impress and innovate today with a constant stream of impressive new items designed to make our lives simpler and more plugged in. Since the 1990s, the technology sector has been a great place for a business to be. What will they think of in the next 30-odd years…?

Thinking Only Quarter to Quarter Stifles Innovation

Profit

IMG: via Shutterstock

For small businesses, thinking only from one quarter to the next is extraordinarily helpful: being able to see changes on the small scale can ensure survival or help correct problems before they become catastrophic.

But for some businesses, thinking in the short-term can be detrimental to innovation and creativity. Successful companies like Google and Amazon have the ability to think ahead—far ahead, in the case of projects like Google’s self-driving car project. Though experimentation won’t work for all companies, it does keep Google and Amazon on the front lines of innovation.

For many small businesses, looking only quarter-to-quarter seems like all that’s possible, but as companies become more successful, they have more room—and more budget—to experiment. However, because shareholders are not forgiving of the trial-and-error process, not every company should experiment with their capabilities, and certainly not before they go public, according to KKR’s Henry Kravis. Even established Wall Street firm KKR, which has begun to branch into venture capitalist investments, understands that experimentation is a delicate process that needs a lot of research and attention.

But larger companies that can afford to experiment with their innovations and company trajectory certainly make some interesting things happen. Google X, the somewhat-secret facility run by the Internet giant, encompasses a lot of projects, some of which are known, some of which are moving into becoming projects, and some of which we may not have even heard of. One of Google’s most innovative projects is its intent to create cars that drive themselves, which has recently moved from an idea stage to actual experimentation involving prototypes.

Like Google, Amazon is also working on some creative projects that could significantly change the way mail is delivered. Amazon Prime Air, so far still in its embryonic stages, is a service that will deliver mail and packages by drone. The project is innovative and would likely be efficient, but it faces the stern countenance of public opinion on the drones, which could be hazardous if not engineered correctly.

There is no guarantee that the program, or Google’s self-driving car initiative, will work: both projects carry the heavy risk of failure, but they are potential failures big companies like these are likely to withstand. Even if shareholders can hold a grudge, they are more willing to take chances on large companies than they are on small ones.

Shareholders of Google and Amazon will probably still see profit even if these ambitious projects tank. But they have a long and sturdy record of measurable progress, so their futures are relatively secure, or at least secure enough that their scopes are not limited to quarter-to-quarter activity.

It’s hard for small businesses who lack the kind of revenue garnered by Google or Amazon to think years into their futures or to tackle ambitious progress where success is not guaranteed. Thinking only from one quarter to the next has its own benefits, of course, but for the larger companies that have the resources, being able to think ahead for the long-term might yield some truly astounding innovations.

Drawing up the Future of Drones

Drone

Amazon has submitted a patent for aerial delivery drones that are able to track the recipient by their smartphone’s GPS. Already news outlets are hypothesizing how creepy this will be, with a horde of drones stalking customers to deliver them their box set of Game of Thrones.

Right now, Google and Amazon are the two companies primarily staking out drone us in the US, but inevitably the law will catch up as more smaller companies take to the skies. Here are a few problems that will have to be solved, and such solutions provide a possibility for entrepreneurs.

Drone Insurance

It seems obvious, and already companies are jumping to expand their businesses to include specialized insurance for aerial unmanned vehicles. Just Google “Aerial Drone Insurance.” The business will inevitably changes as cities and states begin to enact their own requirements for drone insurance—insurance for civilians and property injured or damaged by drones, and possibly insurance for damaging other drones. There are opportunities for businesses to offer drone insurance as well as for lawyers to specialize in relevant laws, existing and future.

Drone Zoning

In major metropolitan areas, drone traffic could increase to a point where cities enact regulations on how many drones can be present, what hours drones can operate, and possibly restrictions on where drones can operate. In large enough cities, one can imagine concerns about a mini Kessler Effect where the skies are too crowded with drones with many concerns about mid-air drone collisions. (There can’t be an actual Kessler Effect because debris doesn’t float this close to earth, it falls.) This leaves room for law firms to help have a guiding hand in crafting legislation that strikes a balance between private and public interests.

Additional Drone Services

Drones are ideal for delivering all manner of products, not just those sold by Amazon and Google. With apps like Eat24 and Grubhub popular, it makes sense that such apps could make use of drones—they could either develop their own or outsource their drones to a third party.

Moreover, computers aren’t always the best at plotting routes or dealing with unstable conditions. There’s a market space for companies that have actual humans manning drones, for areas that have regular bouts of inclement but navigable weather or for cargoes that are time sensitive or have a very particular place they need to be delivered (such as drones carrying urgent medical supplies, to hospitals or emergency areas).

Not only will drones drastically affect the legal landscape, but they will also change the landscape of what we expect from companies and our skies. If the internet was the Wild West of the 90s, we’re now entering the Wild West of the skies. For better or for worse, the skies will be tamed and legislated, so it’s better to become involved in that process earlier rather than later.

Google and Uber to Become Ride-sharing Rivals?

It appears that Uber may have some stiff competition in the near future, as word has spread of a competitor app that would use self-driving cars.

You might say that Uber, an app-based transportation network based in San Francisco, has enemies on all sides. Following bad press generated by numerous articles describing shady business tactics and the mistreatment of employees, Uber has begun to face stiff competition—competition which now includes the technology giant Google, whom used to be a faithful investor in Uber.

Apparently, Google is preparing to roll out its own ride-hailing service. Given the money Google has pumped into research and development of their self-driving cars, it is easy to assume that the service offered by the app would be driven (bad pun intended) by self-driving vehicles. All of this comes from an unnamed source, which has allegedly seen screenshots of the app that is said to currently be in use by Google employees.

To make matters worse, if Uber lost Google as a business partner (and investing in competing ride-sharing apps seems to suggest this may happen), then Uber may be left in the dust when it comes to self-driving car technology. Currently, Uber has access to this technology because of their partnership with Google. However, should that tie be severed, then they would have to get their hands on that technology in some other way—likely through a partnership with another company with the same technology, or investing money in research and development to invent the technology themselves.

Regardless, things aren’t looking good for Uber. If Google isn’t the company to overtake Uber, then another company will rise to the challenge.

What do you think of a potential Google app that could offer rides from self-driving cars? Would you use this app if you could?

Google Celebrates its 10th Anniversary as a Public Company

Google

Google Doodle.

Earlier this month, Google celebrated its 10th anniversary as a public company. The search engine giant was originally listed on New York’s Nasdaq Stock Market on August 19th, 2004. Since then, Google has become worth almost 15 times more than it was on this day; at an astounding value of $391.36 billion, it’s easily one of the world’s largest companies. Google has also invested in and taken over 250 more companies in the past ten years, which add greatly to its overall worth.

Google has expanded and diversified its focus rapidly over the last decade, establishing itself as the leader of search engines, and investing in other technologies such as driverless cars, healthcare innovations, and Google Glass. The company was formed in 1998 as the side project of Stanford students Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Back then it was just a small startup based out of a garage in Menlo Park, California. Today, the company has over 50 thousand employees located all over the world.

Google is still considered just as unconventional as it was when it first started because of how it excels at technology as well as in myriad other areas, some non-tech related. Just to put the company’s success into perspective, when Google was started, smartphones were not invented and Facebook was only six months old. Today it competes with giant companies including Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, and exists as a kind of cultural icon and household name.

The result of the constant thirst for innovation from Google has resulted in a company unlike any other; Google is always impatient, always moving and always searching for the next big thing. And that, of course, is what Page and Brin meant when they opened their letter to shareholders with these two sentences: “We are not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.

Google to Sell Mystery Barges

Google Logo

IMG: via Google

The sudden discovery that Google owned barges led to great bewilderment and fascination when news broke about it last year. Google eventually confirmed that it owned the barges; when reports emerged about the location of one in Stockton, CA and another in Portland, Maine, the leading technology company claimed they were being turned into “an interactive space where people can learn about new technology.”

Reportedly, the company has recently sold the two barges. News reports speculated that Google wanted to turn the barges into invitation-only showrooms for the Google Glass smart glasses. An information packet assembled by Google-affiliated By and Large, LLC describes the describes the project: “The artistic structure combines innovative architecture with a bit of nautical whimsy — creating a surprising environment that inspires conversation, community and ‘aha’ moments,” of Google’s original vision for the barges.

However, new reports reveal that Google won’t utilize the barges after all.

When owned by Google, the Portland barge had 63 shipping containers, which were arranged to form four stories; it was an ideal arrangement for an exclusive interactive space. According to The Los Angeles Times, “the Portland barge was towed to a new location where the containers will be disassembled and the boat will be prepared for an ocean voyage,” of the decision to ultimately cancel the project.

Some are speculating that one of the reasons the company may have dissembled the barge is to lean away from the impression that Google Glass is only for the elite tech crowd. Cashman Equipment Corporation bought the barge in Maine, but Google is still paying a $10,000 monthly fee to keep the other barge in Stockton. Project Manager, John McNulty said the Portland acquisition was finalized this week.

Google has confirmed it sold the barge but did not offer any other information as to why. “We’re working on the next step. It’s somewhat of an unknown at the moment,” McNulty told Computerworld. “Right now, it’s in a hold pattern till that plan is finalized. Whatever I tell you, it could change in 10 minutes.”

Vevo Restructures Assets Before Sale

Vevo

IMG: Vevo

If you’ve ever watched music videos online, you’ve likely watched the majority of them on Vevo. The video hosting service, which is partners with YouTube, reportedly generates six billion views each month, and is considered a crucial factor in YouTube’s success, and to that of the music industry at large.

Over the last few months, many speculations have been made about how the popular video company is planning on putting itself up for sale. As Forbes contributor Hugh McIntyre notes, “Talks of video platform Vevo putting itself up for sale have been reported for months now, and all signs are continuing to point towards what looks to be a sizeable transaction.” Vevo is estimated to be worth between $700 million and $1 billion, so “sizeable” is certainly one way to describe the high stakes future sale of the video streaming giant.

According to Re/Code’s Peter Kafka, “Vevo is a joint venture, controlled primarily by Universal Music, the world’s largest music label, and Sony Music.” He also notes, “Abu Dhabi Media is also an investor, as is Google, whose YouTube site is Vevo’s primary distribution network.” Because Vevo is controlled by so many music industry heavyweights, business insiders are speculating that the company is going to try to do a bit of internal restructuring before it officially goes up for sale. Kafka explains how despite continual interest from potential buyers, investors have inevitably refused to purchase a stake in the company unless its current owners work on making Vevo even more profitable.

Potential buyers include Google, which already holds a stake in the company because of its partnership with YouTube, as well as DreamWorks, Liberty Media, and Guggenheim Digital Media, among others. Vevo has already found immense success in the realm of online music video streaming, and with music videos making up 40% of what people watch on YouTube, it’s no wonder that major companies are looking to invest in a rapidly growing media sector.

Vevo has recently confirmed that some restructuring within the company is going to take place, but there are no reports yet about who is most likely to invest in the company after it officially puts itself up for sale.

Google Using Big Plan to beat Amazon in Delivery

Google Vs. Amazon

Google Vs. Amazon

Though over the years Google has experimented with letting consumers buy goods with services like Google Wallet or Google Checkout, it has now accelerated this strategy with Shopping Express. The new service allows shoppers to buy things from local retail stores through Google, and then delivers them from the physical retail store on the same or next day.

Google executives have set aside as much as $500 million to expand the service nationwide. “You can very much expect that we are putting a lot of money into this and we’re excited and willing to sustain that investment over time as this gets going,” said Tom Fallows, head of Google Shopping Express.

It’s not hard to see why grocery chains may be more enthusiastic to get on board with Google than with Amazon. Amazon Fresh does deliver from some local stores, but its core produce comes from Amazon’s own warehouses. Google Shopping Express, however, sources all its groceries from local stores, allowing shoppers to support their local stores while enjoying the convenience of online shopping. By going local, Google Shopping Express has become a much more appealing partner than Amazon for every local supermarket chain in the country.

“We think that helping close the loop on locally available items is a really important part of making sure Google is the best place to shop,” Fallows said, suggesting that Google may one day show notifications to users searching for a product that is available on Express Shopping with same-day delivery.

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