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7 Google Projects That Have World-Changing Potential

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Google, one of the world leaders in web services and mobile retail, is also developing a few high-profile projects through its Google X Labs that are advancing technology, clean energy, and fine art.  

1. Google Self-Driving Car Project

In 2011, Google acquired two small start-up companies, 510 Systems and Anthony’s Robots, that are developing technology for an autonomous car. After the buyouts, Google engineers modified three 2008 Toyota Prii (or Priuses) with a special rig that mounted on top of the cars to scan the physical world for any obstacles—pedestrians, other vehicles—on the road. The tech giant also developed special software called Google Chauffeur that used Google Maps, Street View, and other GPS-based technologies that served as navigation tools.

In 2012, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles issued Google the first license for an autonomous car to test on public roads. Two years later, Google built a new prototype that didn't include a steering wheel or gas and brake pedals. Google is currently planning to test their fully functioning self-driving cars on busy streets throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Google is aiming to sell driverless cars to the general public or its technology to car manufacturers such as Ford, GM, and Toyota sometime between 2017 and 2020. But city and state driving laws have yet to catch up with the speed of technology; self-driving cars are only legal for use on public streets in Nevada, Florida, California, and Michigan.   

2. Project Tango

In 2013, Google developed technology, called Project Tango, that helps smartphones interact with the real world through complex 3D mapping and scanning. When Android devices are outfitted with motion sensitive cameras and special software, Project Tango can read the interior layout of buildings and homes as its users walk around. The smartphone then translates the 3D space into a graphical interface in real time. Developers and engineers could use the information to build applications that can assist the visually impaired or help people navigate unfamiliar areas. Google also hopes to use Project Tango to flesh out Google Maps and Street View with the interiors of public buildings.   

3. Project Ara

These days, most consumers upgrade their smartphones every couple of years, with only minor changes to things like screen size, camera clarity, or processing speed. This creates not just a lot of manufacturing costs, but also a lot of digital waste. Google is trying to simplify the smartphone upgrade cycle with Project Ara, a retail module phone that will allow consumers to swap out old parts for newer technology instead of buying an entirely new phone. Smartphone manufacturers like Samsung and Motorola would make a skeleton phone, allowing consumers to pick and choose which features they need and upgrade them whenever they're ready.

The plan is to introduce inexpensive "starter kits" that would include a simple frame, display, battery, low-end CPU, and Wi-Fi access to emerging smartphone markets in developing countries. Google wants to lower the barrier and cost to smartphone hardware, while also introducing potential new users to Google web services. Project Ara will launch in Puerto Rico sometime in 2015.   

4. Google Art Project

In 2011, Google launched Art Project in a partnership with 17 international museums. The project features more than 32,000 important works of art from more than 40 countries. Google catalogs and reproduces each piece of art in very high quality resolution with vital information about the artwork; the project also offers its users a viral and interactive walk-through of paintings and sculptures using Street View technology.

Currently, Google Art Project features important pieces of art from 151 museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Tate Gallery in London, the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, the Hong Kong Museum of Art, and the White House. Now anyone with an Internet connection can view priceless works of art from all around the world without leaving their home. 

5. Makani Power

In 2007, Google started funding Makani Power, a small startup company that developed technology to harness the power of wind through autonomous airborne wind turbines. These high-powered "kites" collect wind and transfer its energy back to Earth using a conductive tether. Although traditional wind turbines can only collect wind power as high as 600 feet up, Makani (Hawaiian for "wind") and Google—which officially acquired Makani Power in 2013—are building kites that can collect wind power up to 1000 feet high, where winds are stronger and more consistent. The Wing 7—a 26-foot-long self-flying kite—successfully produced 30 kilowatts of energy; the goal is to generate at least 600 kilowatts of energy with "kite power" to be competitive with fossil fuels, which Makani and Google hope could be a cheaper and cleaner alternative. "If we're successful, we can get rid of a huge part of the fossil fuels we use," said chief engineer Damon Vander Lind.     

6. Project Wing

In late 2014, Google announced Project Wing, which started with the idea of using drones to deliver defibrillators to people who were having heart attacks and evolved into self-flying drones that deliver products and disaster relief in remote areas in the world. The drones use a tether to drop an item from above; once the item is safely on the ground, the tether detaches and recoils. "Even just a few of these, being able to shuttle nearly continuously could service a very large number of people in an emergency situation," Google's Astro Teller told the BBC.

The first version of the drones had a wingspan of five feet and weighed in at about 19 pounds. This design was scrapped after tests in Australia showed that it didn’t do well in high winds, but Google has said they’re committed to the idea of drone delivery.

7. Project Loon

Project Loon is Google's ambitious plan to deliver high-speed Internet access to developing countries and remote areas without using traditional infrastructure like cell phone towers or underground cables. Instead, Google plans to use LTE bands and antennas attached to large helium-filled balloons to connect people to the Internet.

To create its telecommunication network, Google will deploy massive balloons—each 49 feet wide and 39 feet tall—made with sheets of polyethylene plastic in the stratosphere, 12 miles above the Earth's surface. Each balloon will create an LTE network of up to 24 miles on the ground. Each balloon would remain in service for about 100 days before being replaced.

Google believes that using balloons is more cost effective than launching communication satellites or building cell phone towers. And there's another benefit, too: There's no weather in the stratosphere, so if there's a hurricane or typhoon closer to Earth, the natural disaster below won't disrupt the network above, keeping it active on the ground, too.

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Samsung’s Star Wars Vacuums Offer Everything You Want in a Droid
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Hate housecleaning but love Star Wars? Samsung’s got the solution. In anticipation of December’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the newest film in the Star Wars saga, Samsung has transformed a limited number of its VR7000 POWERbot robot vacuum cleaners into two familiar faces from George Lucas’s legendary space opera: a Stormtrooper and Darth Vader (which comes with Wi-Fi connectivity and a remote control).

In order to create a unique device that would truly thrill Star Wars aficionados, Samsung consulted with fans of the film throughout each stage of the process. The result is a pair of custom-crafted robo-vacuums that fill your home with the sounds of a galaxy far, far away as they clean (when you turn Darth Vader on, for example, you'll hear his iconic breathing).

“We are very pleased to be part of the excitement leading up to the release of The Last Jedi and to be launching our limited edition POWERbot in partnership with Star Wars fans,” B.S. Suh, Samsung’s executive vice president, said in a press statement. “From its industry-leading suction power, slim design, and smart features, to the wonderful character-themed voice feedback and sound effects, we are confident the Star Wars limited edition of the VR7000 will be a big hit.”

Be warned that this kind of power suction doesn’t come cheap: while the Stormtrooper POWERbot will set you back $696, the Darth Vader vacuum retails for $798. Who knew the Dark Side was so sparkling clean?

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22 Emojis That Look Completely Different on Different Phones
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Emojis are a great addition to our communication toolbox. Without saying a word, we can talk about people, places, things, and emotions. But different platforms sometimes display the same emoji specification in different ways. An eye roll might come across as petulant or cheerful. A snake might look threatening or adorable. To help you navigate some potentially confusing cross-platform interactions, here are 22 emojis (referred to by their programming code names) that come out with important differences on Apple (iOS 11.1), Google (Android 8), and Samsung (Galaxy S8).


3 different face with rolling eyes emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Way to miss the point.
Google: Ugh. Oh boy. Nice one. NOT!
Samsung: Heh, heh. Neato.


3 different snake emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Beware!
Google: Beware?
Samsung: Aww. Snakey-poo.


Three different nerd face emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Nerdy cuteness.
Google: Nerdy excitement!
Samsung: Nerdy astonishment!


Three different cookie emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Mmm. Delicious chocolate chips…
Google: Raisins? Nuts?
Samsung: Uh, thanks for the cookie?


Three different loudly crying face emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: River of tears.
Google: Waterfall of tears.
Samsung: Cast adrift on a lake of tears.


Three different ghost emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Ready for a goofy good scare?!
Google: Me scary! (*wink*)
Samsung: (*clears throat*) Um, boo.


Three different couch and lamp emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Midcentury modern pad.
Google: Office waiting room.
Samsung: Haunted Victorian hotel.


Three different chipmunk emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Cute? No. Please allow me my dignity.
Google: Tee hee. Cute!
Samsung: Where did I put those nuts…


Three different octopus emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Oh. You surprised me there.
Google: Boo! I surprise YOU!
Samsung: Hellooooooo, over there.


Three different cat emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Always identified more with the mice, actually.
Google: On the internet, everyone loves a cat!
Samsung: Your texts are tedious.


Three different pizza emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Pepperoni.
Google: Pepperoni and olives.
Samsung: Pepperoni, olives, and extra cheese.


Three different man dancing emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Disco in the '70s.
Google: Miami Vice in the '80s.
Samsung: Dabbing, whipping, and nae-naeing at the middle school.


Three different old man emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: More like middle-aged.
Google: Old and yet somehow babyish.
Samsung: Very prematurely grey kid.


Three different running shoe emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Ready for the 5K.
Google: Ready for some stickball.
Samsung: Ready for the playground.


Three different detective emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Experienced and ready to assist.
Google: No experience yet, but can’t wait to start!
Samsung: Seen too much.


Three different person surfing emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Awesome!
Google: Pretty fun.
Samsung: Whoa. Help.


Three different framed picture emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: For the nursery.
Google: For the den.
Samsung: For the great hall.


Three different drooling face emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Sooo delicious…
Google: Sooo incomprehensible…
Samsung: Sooo disturbing…


Three different clapping emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Pay attention!
Google: Polite applause.
Samsung: Hushed appreciation.


Three different t-shirt emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Casual Friday at the office.
Google: Saturday at the gym.
Samsung: Sunday on the couch.


Three different person frowning emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Hurt and disappointed.
Google: Crushed and disappointed.
Samsung: Not gonna stand for it anymore.


Three different fearful face emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Yikes! Aaack! No way!
Google: Oh dear! Why! I feel sick!
Samsung: Bzzzt! Yoinks!

Check the platform differences for all the emojis at Emojipedia.


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