April 24, 2015

4 Major Google Projects From This Week You Need To Know About

Image from Collection Picture.

By Megan G.

Google is constantly going on adventures through tech, pop culture, and history, and this past week has been no exception.  In the past five days, they have tinkered with their smartwatches, offered new tours via Google Maps, and even released an ambitious cellular service set to compete with the most formidable players in the phone carrier industry. 

Interestingly enough, all of these recent updates have something to do with Google Maps.  Read on to learn more about the four major news stories from our favorite tech giant from this past week.

1.  Android Wear:  “Wear what you want” and Never Feel Lost

An update for Android Wear, Google’s brand of smartwatches, was released on Monday.  Recent reports detailed some of the awesome new features for this Google gadget, the most interesting being how their smartwatch handles user navigation.

Android Wear will have a Google Maps app available for download from the Google Play store, as well as voice search navigating abilities through Google Now.  All you have to do is say “OK Google, navigate to…” and your journey begins.  Their watches also have “always-on” apps and popup notifications to keep their users updated on all of their activities, especially when finding their way.

For another added Google Maps perk, Android Wear is included on the Android Device Manager.  This allows users to find their lost Android phone via their watch by showing their phone’s location on a Google Map and giving the user an option to call it.  Android Wear is starting to showcase some of its most practical perks in the tech industry’s smartwatch craze.

Which Android Wear watch would you choose?  Personally, I think the LG Watch Urbane that should release at the end of this month looks pretty slick. 

2.  The Ongoing Search for the Loch Ness Monster

This past Tuesday, the search engine’s logo featured a Google Doodle of extraterrestrials peddling a Nessie submarine.  This odd image was penned in honor of the 81st anniversary of the “Surgeon’s Photograph,” aka the (in)famous photo of the Loch Ness Monster. 

In addition to the adorable pic, the internet company’s Google Maps team took a virtual Street View tour of Loch Ness’ murky, eerie waters.  As you can see in their official video, the Maps crew worked with Nessie expert Adrian Shine to film the Loch and try to find one of the world’s most renowned legendary creatures.

3.  A Tour With South Africa’s Freedom Fighters

Google Maps also took a step away from pop culture’s pseudo-history and into an important period of the 20th century.  Per their official blog post on Wednesday, Google announced their partnership with the Robben Island Museum and the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory to create a virtual Google Maps tour through the Island where Mandela was held for South African apartheid.  The Street View tour brings the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Robben Island online for anyone with computer access to experience.

Some important highlights include a view of Nelson Mandela’s cell, activist Robert Sobukwe’s House, and audio clips of interviews with various former political prisoners

4.  Mapping Service for Project Fi:  Coverage Areas and WiFi Hotspots

One of the most popular updates from Google this week was the unveiling of their in-the-works cellular service, Project Fi.  We spoke about the project briefly on Tek Shouts! before, and you can find the rest of what you want to know about the project in this BGR article.  Now, how does Google Maps factor into this WiFi-focused cell service?  Truth is, not too much—for the moment.

The main connection to be found between Fi and Google Maps lies in the Project Fi Coverage page.  From here, you can use a Map-powered tool to see if Google’s new carrier service is available in your area.  If you are located in Irvine, CA like the Tek Team, then it’s time to celebrate!  You have a brand new carrier service to (potentially) try out!  

What about future Project Fi-Google Maps collaborations?  Well, considering that Fi phones will function on both Wi-Fi and cell networks, a new and improved Hotspot Map powered by Google Maps could help Fi-users find the best places to talk and text.  The Fi experience is supposed to feature seamless transitions between WiFi and LTE cell networks.  However, the looming cellular “juggernauts” of Verizon and AT&T certainly pose no idle threat to this project.  It would be beneficial to have a visual means of Project Fi’s functionality in the form of an app to keep the service in the minds and hands of mobile users. 

Still, Project Fi is still only trying to bloom in its Early Access stage, so there is plenty of room and time for improvement.  We hope that this project’s experimental stage yields better results than that of Google Glass.  We’re rooting for you, Google!  

Have you been keeping up with all of these projects from Google?  Let the Tek Team know about your opinions and experiences in the comment section!

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