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Project Tango (google.com)
815 points by psbp on Feb 20, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 339 comments



This is essentially putting a Kinect in your phone and hooking it up with hopefully high-level APIs. It may take 2-3 years to make it into regular phones, but when it does it will be huge. Apple's acquisition of PrimeSense (the makers of the 1st gen Kinect) means they're also working on this.

To give you a real-world example: when I started BarSsense (http://www.barsense.com) the core problem was tracking the path and velocity of a weightlifter's bar. I bought a PrimeSense camera because it can extract a lot more data and with greater accuracy out of an image than a regular camera. After some prototyping, I decided to use a 2D camera and deliver the software as an app because I thought wide distribution and ease of use was more important than the fidelity and correctness of the data - ie, the "worse is better" approach. When these cameras make their way into regular phones, "worse is better" will suddenly become "better".


Wow, this is an amazing application. I love olympic weightlifting, and seeing somebody build a training aide using computer vision in an app makes me feel like living in the future. What a nice contribution to this beautiful sport.


This. I hadn't seen this app before and as I soon as I saw it I clicked "Install". Lovely stuff. Look forward to putting it to the test tomorrow and the foreseeable future.

As an aside, do you expect to monetize this in someway, or are you just doing it for the good of man?


Thanks to both of you, I hope you find it useful and let me know if you run into issues.

I'm planning to monetize and I have a few ideas, hopefully one of them works out!


Very neat. Making the screenshot animated might give an even better idea of how it works and make the page a little more dynamic/involving. Do you have any plans to have it analyze the trace(s) and give the user suggestions on what to change?


Very cool. Did you do all of the coding and heavy lifting on this app yourself? It certainly raises the bar in this area! Hopefully it didn't weigh you down whilst developing it.

Sorry, today is clearly Pun Day.


You've used all of the puns :c


This may be nice for certain niche users.

But the trend I see is companies telling us to regularly buy stuff we really don't need (and obviously throw away our "old" solutions). The world has way more pressing issues than yet-another-gadget. And the planet's resources are not unlimited.


I'm sorry that I'm not able to solve world hunger and world peace. Not sure why that means I cannot take it upon myself to hypothetically build a mobile computer-vision-powered app? Please enlighten.


It doesn't mean it. It just means that if enough people think the same way, the world is doomed.

Or, if not doomed, it's not getting any better in areas that matter.

(People laugh at words like "doomed", assuming everything will be as it was when they were growing up. For some lucky ones that's true. For others the worse happens, like a financial collapse or a world war, and then they "knew it all along it was going to happen").


> It just means that if enough people think the same way, the world is doomed.

True in the sense that if "enough people" believe the Internet's favourite scare-story of imminent-financial-collapse (growing in popularity ever since Y2K) then it will indeed by necessity finally happen ;)


What "scare story"? Financial collapse already happened in 2008.

People paid a trillion in the US alone, out of their pockets, to ameliorate it (plus close to another trillion they lented to Detroit). And tons of middle/working class jobs are not coming back in the foreseeable future.

And that's the US. For some European economies it is even worse -- they got from 30% unemployment to double the suicide rates in 3-4 years time.


That sure was a big crisis but the word collapse for me implies total breakdown == after something collapsed, it no longer exists. The "financial system" still exists seemingly, even if arguably not in its best shape ever since.


You're right that the science and practice of morality hasn't moved that much over the past 50 years while the science of technology has jumped by orders of magnitude, and that this is a problem that needs addressing. That doesn't mean we should stop evolving the state of the art in technology though. This is not an either/or situation. Ethical science relies on the advancement of technology, and vice versa.


I agree that the practice of morality seems sort of neglected in the western world.

I don't see how ethical science relies on the advancement of technology, though. I'm not even sure what ethical _science_ is, to be honest.


One fairly obvious application of that is to have motorbikes that can act like Google self-driving car. If we replace most cars by two-wheels (say, with a roof for confort under the rain) we divide to a third the oil consumption for transport, i.e. a third of world’s oil spending.

That's 20% saving on global non-renewables. “Niche”?


I don't understand the application beyond gaming. The other applications discussed are basically shopping.

Essentially this would make it much easier to represent the physical world digitally. But what use cases does a consumer or the average phone user have for digital representations of the physical space around them, particularly given that the user is already aware of the the physical space around them? How can this sort of digital device extend our ability to interact with physical space?


* Mapping the physical world

Ever wanted a floor plan for your home? Just wave your phone around.

* Visual annotation

Add direction overlays, see the plan for a play your team is executing on the helmet HUD, highlight "dangerous"(weaving, too fast, whatnot) drivers on the car HUD.

* Integrate sensor data to extend human perception

Add an IR overlay. Sample sound across the room, do a volumetric display of noise levels. "see" the strength of your WiFi signal.

* Image post processing

You have a 3d map of an area, plus pictures of all textures - rearrange to your hearts content.

* Alternate Reality

Completely change the look of the world around you, just because you can. (Semi-useful application: Interior decoration. See that couch right in your living room before you buy it)

There are tons of applications there. It mixes the "reality" of physical space with the malleability of the digital space.


I think I'm a neo-luddite.


I don't think you're a luddite. With any technology like this, it's important to ask: what applications does this really enable and will those applications simply be a waste of time.

This is an unveiling of a technology but the "applications" they show in this video are probably a waste of time to most users. Google have not shown a killer app that uses this tech. Maybe they're working on something (they hint that they may be planning to integrate indoor mapping into Google Maps which might be interesting) but they're not showing it in this video.

That doesn't mean the tech is bad. But we haven't seen enough to judge it as useful to end users.


Google has acknowledged that their vision of where this is going is, at best, partial: "While we may believe we know where this technology will take us, history suggests we that should be humble in our predictions. We are excited to see the effort take shape with each step forward."

I liked this part.


Google Maps already has indoor maps.


Yeah but they even said in the video that they struggle with indoor navigation and positioning.


This has applications even for, uh, "normal" people. For example, online real estate portals. People who are house-hunting would probably appreciate floorplans or a 3D tour. Agents, landlords or property developers would be able to easily create those with their mobile device.


>Agents, landlords or property developers would be able to easily create those with their mobile device

But they won't! It is very difficult to get those people to post more than a low res picture of one room online when they can very easily walk through the house with a video camera, for example. Even large apartment complexes have 1-2 pictures on their website and call it a day.


I'm currently house hunting (in Sweden) and most real estate agents go for full on visual overload. Everybody has at least 30+ 'artistic' photos. Most also have nice videos of the house on their site. Some even have clever 360 panorama thingies. I basically never watch them as they add nothing of value.

The single most important thing, for me, is a nice and correct 2D floor plan. Add to that 5-10 well chosen photos and you're done on the visual front as far as I'm concerned. If you haven't convinced to at least go look at the house with that, no video or interactive 3D model is going to change my mind.

The big problem is that the overlap between the information I consider important and the information the real estate agent is eager to share don't overlap all the much


Indeed. Panoramic photo VR tours were also gonna be the next big thing for real estate (remember QTVR?) but that only made sense for one-of-a-kind high end properties. Everything else is a commodity.


Nail in the head.

I have chatted with one of the agents about how do they work, and no surprise - they lend out everything by phone, because "uploading pictures to website takes 24 hours."


I used to work for one of the largest real estate portals in Europe, and people seldom watched the video of a property (if available). We also added floorplans from floorplanner.com and that converted way better. Now 25% of the listed properties has one.


To be honest, 25% is a very low number for such an essential piece of information about the property. Do you mind sharing how often people look at floor plans on your portal?

I'm a Russian living in the UK and it still surprises me that what Russians consider to be a viable information about property (gross internal and net internal area, kitchen area and a floor plan) is so rarely present on the UK property sites. "Lovely 2-bedroom" is all you normally expect.


That's because 99% of UK housing comes in a single standard size --- `XS`.


Do you see a lot of agents using Photosynth to give 3D tours ? It has been out for 4 years.

Sure with embedded in a smartphone would be more convenient, but I'm sure agents have some cameras when they get in houses.


I pretty much stopped reading when they were going through the possible applications. Find my way around a super-store, shit I'd rather just stay out if at all possible.

In the meantime, I'm sure this will revolutionize something. It always does. I'm just in your same position ... a neo-luddite.

Also, I would much rather have a space elevator than a 3D mapping phone.


The 3D mapping phone gets you the space elevator, because you need AI lab-assistants / engineers / scientists to build the space elevator.


It's not really an either/or situation


hah! That's the word I was looking for.


Since they want to "map the physical world", Google should buy the Euclideon guys already (Unlimited Detail Engine, Geoverse, etc):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Irf-HJ4fBls

And then release it for VR applications/games (one can hope).


I thought they were investment-scamming techno-cons who had never been releasing video demonstrations for years without ever releasing a product.


The technology is amazing, but honestly these applications don't really seem that valuable, especially to the average user. Facial recognition is the main application of machine vision I can think of, but even that has limited utility. And I'm not sure if it will actually benefit from this technology.


What offices are in the second floor of that building across the street?

Is there something special about the house I'm pointing my phone at?

Who owns the daycare centre I'm pointing my phone at? Have there been any licensing / regulatory violations?

Paint a coloured path on the floor or wall to guide me to the dentist's office.

I'm old and can't see very well. Give me verbal directions to navigate (indoors) to get to the clinic.

I've got a wet spot on my basement ceiling. Highlight the outside of the house where water might be entering.


Any mechanical engineer who's had to take a 3D object and model it in CAD will love this.

I've been toying with the idea of such software in a phone for a while but never bothered exploring it because I lack the technical chops. There's a piece of software I've previously used called PhotoModeller [1] that allows you to calibrate a standard digital P&S camera then use a bunch of shots of the scene from various angles to build a 3D point cloud of it. Given that you can know the lens of an iPhone to a pretty close accuracy, I was thinking that you could build a similar application straight into the phone that then could upload 3d scans to dropbox. It'd be invaluable to field work.

This takes the above idea and loads it with steroids. I'm really excited!

[1] http://www.photomodeler.com/index.html


This is called photogrammetry - check out Autodesk's 123D Catch iPhone and web app, it yields some pretty good results if you take enough evenly lit photos with decent overlap.


Try this: http://seene.co/

It does just that and even let's you post the scenes.


It's a path to huds, in the Deepness in the Sky sense.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Deepness_in_the_Sky

You need situational awareness in a device to start using it to paint data onto the surroundings. Once you can do that, a whole world of applications unlocks.


Seems like this is much more likely Google's goal. Couching their arguments in ways the consumer will benefit left me feeling woefully unimpressed with the possibilities.

But clearly PK Dick's self-aware advertising will not be possible until such ads can distinguish a human from a column of marble or a dog.


This reminds me of William Hertling's 'AI Apocalypse' trilogy, specifically the last book 'The Last Firewall' where brain implants enabled depth-specific metadata info on everyone in vicinity.


It's machine vision. I mean the possibilities are endless. Your phone can see now. This gives the device way more information about an environment then a camera would. I can put this on the dashboard of my car or on the handle bars of bikes, I could leave this thing on at home while I'm work, I could use it to as a click counter at a theater to measure capacity, I could navigate pitch darkness much better, etc.


I think of it as similar in its final goal as at&t/olivetti research's "The Bat" ubiquitous or sentient computing project. These links provide some good examples of stuff they did with that: http://www.vs.inf.ethz.ch/events/dag2002/program/ws/Beresfor... http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/shodges/videos...

in short, the physical world can be treated as a user interface to computers.

There's a large technical distinction of course; in the case of the bat, getting the technology up and running to do this was sophisticated enough that the video i linked to spends a large portion explaining how it works. they used centralized computers and centralized sensors (echo-locators) to figure out where the device you are holding is within a known environment. Nowadays, we can put so much compute power and so many sensors in a device you are holding that it can figure out its own environment instead.


You don't understand it because it's beyond your comprehension, Morty. Because the world is full of idiots that don’t understand what’s important. And they’ll tear us apart, Morty. But if you stick with me, I’m gonna accomplish great things, Morty. And you’re gonna be part of them. And together, we’re gonna run around, Morty. We’re gonna- do all kinds of wonderful things, Morty.


It will let you see through walls.

Imagine being in a complex refinery, factory, etc., where tons of infrastructure is hidden behind walls or a couple of rooms away. Just hold your device in front of you, and peer through its virtual portal through the walls onto your hidden surroundings ...

Being able to know where everything is, along with an overlay of real-time status, etc. will be valuable.


> But what use cases does a consumer or the average phone user have for digital representations of the physical space around them, particularly given that the user is already aware of the the physical space around them?

For the user? Probably not much at the moment, if ever.

For a company whose mission is to collect, aggregate, and extract monetary value from every last piece of data in the world?

For a government that's interested in extending its awareness?

Priceless.


Example app:

You can see crowd moving on streets, where each person is a box (or a 3d avatar)... than if other people have installed the same app as you do.. it will show a icon on top of the box representing the person (the phone sends a signal IR, BT whatever) .. or is geolocated by a central server that sync the position of everybody..

Than you can interact with those strangers on the street.. in the 3d box you see representing the person, it may have more clues about that person..

so you can send a message to a girl/guy you liked and ask to hang out with you.. for intance.. its like a people radar..

Can work in traffic too.. so you can tag people in cars around you..

You can create a game, and involve people you have tagged, and give each one a role.. like in a RPG

If you get feedback of the camera too, you can see people with 3d stuff on top.. like holding a 3d gun..or a secret message in your virtual shirt.. it would work like a magical glass

I had this micro idea, a year ago.. this is the technology to make it work.. feel free to use it to create something

just call me for a beer later :)


the blind. that use case is even demonstrated in the video.


Ocular implants are not the newest technology. The argument I think would be that a phone would be a cheaper alternative/more accessible. But I'm interested if the 'audio cues' that they mention in the video would be any better than the audio cues already present in most environments.


I'm only aware of wildly experimental implants providing like 200 dots of light. They aren't by any means a deployed medical technology.

This sort of system could provide audio cues in any environment. That's already a big step up from 'most environments'.


Combined with something like Tactus [1] and the environment can be represented in a tactile 3d map [2].

[1] http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/10/new-tactus-case-concept-bri... [2] http://www.solidterrainmodeling.com/


Well I'd imagine using computer vision that can identify door handles, elevator buttons (even so far as reading out the numbers on the display).


Personal transport. It makes what Google did with self-driving cars possible with far less stable transporters: motos, bikes, even small crates with wheels or even rotors in large logistic centrals. It can mean plans like drug-delivery using drones have a better technology in crowded places, like when approaching futuristic health centers that synthesize or store drugs. This is huge.


Imagine if you integrate this with a future version of NEST thermostat or an integrated lighting, you can create different environments in a single room and change it on the fly. An electrician working in a Hotel would be navigated to the right junction box. You buy a new car and the manufacturer provides you with a virtual manual to find new controls, may be even basic repairs.


One example would be better versions of the iRobot cleaners. Currently they rely on a series of semi random movements and aren't particularly smart, which contributes to not being very efficient, and rarely getting into the edges of spaces. If you own one you've probably moved your furniture to accommodate their strange behaviour.


Neato's robot vacuum cleaners already do this using Lidar.


wow did you post this on the wrong website. "I don't understand"


I think you missed a real opportunity to name your app "Do You Lift Even".


This is sick! I lift and I've been wanting something like this for a looong time.

I think the end game of this technology can help people without a coach learn to lift. From what I've read about how people learn, immediate feedback is extremely important, as in within a couple of seconds. I'd love it if this took bar path and velocity information, and put it into a machine learning system. The app could watch you in real time and immediately tell you whether it was a good lift or what was wrong with it. Lift your butt up faster, or lift the bar faster, slower or whatever. I think you'd need to sit down with a couple good coaches and have them classify what's wrong or right with several hundred lifts to get your training dataset—but I would love to pay for this product.


How is the progress for BarSense for iOS?


Yes, this please. My entire CrossFit box would start using this tomorrow if it were available on iOS. I don't know anyone with an Android.


Thanks a lot, the iOS version should be out sometime this spring.


Good app. But you misspelled the name: BarSense.


Nice app! Quick spelling check though:

You can focus on and isolate part of a rep to really understand how well "YOUR" performed


This is really cool. Does it compute power along the trajectory as well?

The problem I have is that I don't have a smartphone. Each cool app like this brings me closer to getting one though.

Can anyone suggest an alternative to this app that could work with video files? Or maybe something that I can stick to the barbell?


Wow. Great app. I would have loved this app back when I was into oly lifting.


I've been looking for something like this! Downloaded.


Cool app! Downloaded.


"Imagine measuring your room by just walking around in it." Yes, and imagine transmitting each of those footsteps in real time back to Google, so they can have a map of your room, too, in case they, or other parties, ever need it.

I was just having a discussion yesterday with a friend who works at Google about what data they store when you query their search engine. Every single keystroke, including backspaces, is stored. They don't just know what you ask. They know how well you can spell and know how well you type, not just in general but down to specific letter sequences. With this data, they can tell if you are regularly more impaired (fine motor control) at some times than at others, or if you're growing more impaired over time and match that against the content of your queries, etc.

"Phones that don't limit their boundaries to a touchscreen", meaning, we're not satisfied limiting our knowledge of you to just what we can extract from what you enter and how you enter it and when on a touchscreen. We want to know every step you take, when you sit, when you stand, how and where you walk.... SO much more data about you and your world that we can mine for treasure!

I'm not saying that Google is evil. My friends at Google certainly aren't. It's just that they are like kids in a candy store with unprecedented access to data and so many great, new algorithms for extracting information from it that they are just loving it, the way geeks would. But we're really going down a rabbit hole here.


Good god I am so sick of reading comments like this. This view of the world is just lazy. Almost as lazy as "remember, if you're using a service for free, you're not the customer, YOU'RE THE PRODUCT!", which seems to get parroted every single time there is any discussion related to google, facebook, microsoft, instagram, twitter, or any other web company that uses ads as a revenue model.

Yes, google can know what your room looks like. Google could also know literally every place you go, every message you send, every transaction you make through a bank, every website you visit, every photo you take, every person you meet, when you use the bathroom, when you sleep, etc. etc. etc.

Who cares? If you don't like these services, don't use them. Nobody is forcing you to use this device.

Have you, or any of the other people on HN who repeat this ad nauseum, ever considered the possibility that the people running google are actually just hackers who got lucky enough to have the resources to pursue projects that they think are cool?

I mean...what would you do if you had google's resources? If I had google's resources I'd probably be doing exactly what they're doing. Things like trying to improve the broadband situation in the United States, protected rhinos from African poachers, developing cool future-tech like self-driving cars, etc.

If you don't like modernity, stop using modernity. Move to a homestead in the pacific northwest, never use a telephone, never use grid power, grow your own vegetables, grow your own cattle, and keep away from the evil, scary spies at gooooogggllleeee who are trying to...uh...give you better targeted advertisements? Or provide you with better search results?


> Good god I am so sick of reading comments like this. This view of the world is just lazy.

I think your view of the world is the lazier of the two--you're basically saying "let's not worry about the negative implications of the things we create as long as our intentions are good".

> Who cares? If you don't like these services, don't use them. Nobody is forcing you to use this device . . . If you don't like modernity, stop using modernity. Move to a homestead in the pacific northwest, never use a telephone, never use grid power, grow your own vegetables, grow your own cattle, and keep away from the evil, scary spies at gooooogggllleeee who are trying to...uh...give you better targeted advertisements? Or provide you with better search results?

Here's how your entire comment reads to me: "If you're interested in thinking about the future implications of the new things we're creating, please shut up and go live in the woods, because you obviously hate modernity. I'm really sick of people thinking about the future and how we might be creating things that will eventually hurt us. The market comes before foresight, and commentary isn't welcome; when you have potential concerns for the future, the only acceptable response is voting with your feet. Please do that and don't ruin our fun."

What you miss is that one can object to a single, potentially dangerous aspect of recent developments (personal information collection and exploitation) while embracing technology in general at the same time.

In creating new technology, it's essential that we examine the paradigms we're creating. If no one's doing that, we're almost sure to run ourselves into serious trouble sooner or later. There's a reason you look before you leap.

Which is lazy: choosing not to use awesome new technology because it has some potentially dangerous implications, or just using any new and seemingly convenient thing that people come up with and assuming it's got to be okay?


I think the grandparent's point is to focus on things that are actionable. If you are worried about the information Google collects on you and so choose not to use Google products - fine, that's your right. But if you're worried about the information Google collects on you and so choose to plaster that all over message boards every time Google is mentioned - exactly what are you accomplishing? Do you think the people reading your comment don't already know what information Google has available? Do you think Google's going to change its practices because you complain?


> if you're worried about the information Google collects on you and so choose to plaster that all over message boards every time Google is mentioned - exactly what are you accomplishing?

If you're worried about the information Google collects about /everybody/, and you're posting in /relevant topics/, I think you're accomplishing quite a lot. I think it's really important that when new technology is announced, interested parties discuss both "here are some exciting new possibilities" and "here are some areas for concern". In an impartial discussion forum, a product announcement shouldn't just be an excitement-fest.

> Do you think the people reading your comment don't already know what information Google has available?

This technology will likely result in Google and others collecting and having access to new sources of information about people. I think that many people reading the announcement might not immediately think about some of these implications, and I think it's a great time for review and examination of the topic.

> Do you think Google's going to change its practices because you complain?

I think some engineers and others working on this project and other projects at Google probably read HN, and I think comments here could have an effect on how they build this product and what data is eventually sent to the company. Reading these concerns might be a good reminder to reflect on these things from time to time as well.

> I think the grandparent's point is to focus on things that are actionable.

Action without reflection is a dangerous formula. Google is taking action by building this and announcing it. What we do at HN is learn, reflect, and discuss.


You think the average person is aware of the data companies are collecting on them? I feel like 99% of the world has no idea how their privacy is being invaded. I think it's important to raise some awareness, so people can make an informed decision in the first place.

I also don't believe the answer is simply not using the services. That's like saying if you don't like the government monitoring your phone calls or location, you should just stop using phones.


Well the fact that google is tracking our keystrokes in their search box came as a surprise to me. So the original comment was definitely informative and useful to me (and actionable). It's kind of sneaky no? I'm not making a political statement, I'm just genuinely creeped out a bit at the idea.

Stupid that I didn't see this I should add. Considering I'm a programmer who knows how to do that with javascript, but for whatever reason it never occurred to me to do it or that others are doing it.


How did you think Google Instant works? http://www.google.com/insidesearch/features/instant/about.ht...


There's need to store every single keystroke to implement Google Instant.


My carrier pigeon just arrived with some TCP/IP/pigeon protocol packets, and I see I've caused someone's head to explode on the Internet.

I'll put down my vegetable hoe and ask you this. Given that these are my friends, neighbors, and former coworkers I'm talking about at Google, is there any information about you that you would be uncomfortable having your friends collect and store in a database for unknown parties to eventually analyze? If there's some limit beyond which you might say, "Well, that's going a bit too far," and that caused someone else to fulminate over your backwardness, what would you say to them?

Oh, well, gotta send this pigeon off and get back to my bunker before the drones catch me out in the open....


that's silly, people at Google don't have access to your data, and even if they did, they would not have your name attached on


Just in case you're not joking: Yes, of course they have access to my data, and unless I delete all Google cookies, sign out from all Google services (gmail, youtube, etc.) and possibly reboot my browser before making a Google query, they add every keystroke of that query to everything they've read in my email, every youtube video I've watched, my contacts and my contacts' contacts (pointing back at me), driving endpoints from Google maps, phone numbers for calendar notifications, and on and on. Of course they know my name along with everything else they know about me.

Even twenty years ago, if you called a mail order catalog company, and it was the first time you'd called them, the sales rep on the phone already had your number (from commercial caller ID), your name (either "Bob Smith" or "Sally Smith"), and your household's credit card numbers before you even opened your mouth. They would still ask you for them for security reasons, to see which of your cards you wanted to use, to double-check accuracy, and in order to NOT freak you out, but companies you had never heard of already knew your name before you ever called them.

But you think Google can't figure out my name?


I think you're misunderstanding what he means. He's saying that Google employees don't have access to that kind of information (due to access controls, logging of access, etc), likely in response to your "would you be uncomfortable with your friends collecting arbitrary amounts of data from you" question.

I'm not saying that his comment was a sound rebuttal to yours or anything; just noting that he was talking in the context of "your friends, neighbors and former coworkers" accessing your data and you're talking about "Google" accessing your data, and those are potentially very different things.


Yes. User data, especially PII data, is very closely watched. If I tried to access something that I shouldn't (assuming that I managed to get the right permissions first), I have no doubt that I'd be fired by the end of the week.


"...ever considered the possibility that the people running google are actually just hackers who got lucky enough to have the resources to pursue projects that they think are cool?"

Given that he said that, yes, he probably has considered it.

You're reacting reflexively here.

There's ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with considering the potential problems along with the benefits. In fact, it's extremely shallow not to.


> Good god I am so sick of reading comments like this.

Then don't.

You just lazily suggested to these people to stop using these products/services, so I suggest for you to stop reading comments "like this."

> Almost as lazy as "remember, if you're using a service for free, you're not the customer, YOU'RE THE PRODUCT!"

By the way, what do you think Facebook bought yesterday for $16 billion? Not a product, but users.


I don't think it's laziness. That can be part of it, but I believe the core issue is a specific mentality these type of people have. They see the world in a black and white. "Us" and "them". Their view of the world has these two (or more) sides always in conflict. So, they effectively view Google as an enemy to fight against.

My theory as to why people act this way is that they do so to give their lives meaning. That, or there is something that makes their life meaningful they believe the "enemy" will take away. For instance "Google spying on my children" -> "Google is the enemy". They see Google, the NSA, Microsoft, etc, as a cohesive group that is "after them".

But in absence of this conflict, or the external meaning that is the cause of the (perceived) conflict, they wouldn't know what to do with their own existence. Religion, alcohol, and hedonism may end up filling this gap.

In contrast, those who have a self-defined objective see the world as a massive system of problems to solve (or not solve). There's no singular "enemy", just a huge number of people who all have their own motivations and ideals. "Google" is nothing more than a tightly-bound collection of humans.


> But in absence of this conflict, or the external meaning that is the cause of the (perceived) conflict, they wouldn't know what to do with their own existence

What nonsense.

> "Google" is nothing more than a tightly-bound collection of humans.

Yes, and collections of humans tend to exhibit emergent properties / behaviours which are not necessarily ideal in all respects.

Discussion of these properties / behaviours, and their desirability, is not a bad thing.

> They see the world in a black and white. "Us" and "them".

This is humorous to see in a post expounding a false dichotomy between the "two" types of people in the world.


> Who cares? If you don't like these services, don't use them. Nobody is forcing you to use this device.

I cannot dictate my friends. Should I disallow them entering my house with their shiny toys? Should I nuke their wireless connections to make sure they cannot transmit live? Privacy is a societal issue that cannot be fixed by ignoring it.


> Have you, or any of the other people on HN who repeat this ad nauseum, ever considered the possibility that the people running google are actually just hackers who got lucky enough to have the resources to pursue projects that they think are cool?

Have you considered that making this impression on gullible people has been part of Google's schtick from the beginning?


> Good god I am so sick of reading comments like this.

I suppose your comment has, if nothing else, the virtue of being relatively novel compared against either the comments of those unaware of the privacy implications of much modern technology or those concerned by them. People who are largely aware and untroubled do seem to be in the minority.

> This view of the world is just lazy. Almost as lazy as "remember, if you're using a service for free, you're not the customer, YOU'RE THE PRODUCT!", which seems to get parroted every single time there is any discussion related to google, facebook, microsoft, instagram, twitter, or any other web company that uses ads as a revenue model.

It appears to be, if not 100% correct, a generally good heuristic, and a way of pointing out to people that the costs of participating in nominally free services are often hidden. Perhaps you could explain how this is lazy.

> If you don't like these services, don't use them / If you don't like modernity, stop using modernity.

Whew! Simple binary options. It's all clear now, and anybody who's thinking about this can safely choose one without worrying any further (or being accused of being... lazy, right?).

Or maybe some of us "lazy" people would like to explore the possibility of having a world where we can have the benefits of the technologies and minimize the problems.

> Have you, or any of the other people on HN who repeat this ad nauseum, ever considered the possibility that the people running google are actually just hackers who got lucky enough to have the resources to pursue projects that they think are cool?

I suspect many of them are. My acquaintances who work there seem to be.

But perhaps you are familiar with the aphorism "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" (though perhaps this is something else you consider "lazy"). It doesn't matter what motivated those who pursued a thorough knowledge and practice of various nuclear fission techniques, the fact is that they have various drawbacks (some pretty serious) that aren't a matter of individual opt-in / opt-out. This is true of technologies that extend legibility of personal spaces and activities.

> If you don't like modernity, stop using modernity. Move to a homestead in the pacific northwest, never use a telephone, never use grid power, grow your own vegetables, grow your own cattle, and keep away from the evil, scary spies at gooooogggllleeee

I think I've seen this suggestion before, but less in earnest:

http://www.theonion.com/video/google-opt-out-feature-lets-us...


> This view of the world is just lazy.

I wouldn't even say laziness as much as simple-mindedness. Apparently there are a decent amt of people (at least on HN) that actually read stuff like this and the word Google/Facebook/Yahoo/what-have-you is the only thing their brain apparently pulls out of the content. It's staggering in its vacuousness, but I wouldn't go so far as to blame them for being lazy.


You are both right, there is no better way to put it.

My problem with the whole thing is that you get sucked in and by the time you realize what's going on, it's too late to turn back.

You get tempted by the amazing gadgets and services, somehow your whole life ends up in Google's computers. You think it's just a bunch of geeks like you. Then Snowden blows the lid on the whole thing and now you're in some Philip K Dick story.


What's the solution? Stop innovating because there's a slight chance of said innovation being used for evil? I'm all for being wary of what's going on, so that you don't get caught with your pants down, but what's the absolute worse that can happen? Every single tech that you can think of that has changed the world in some form, had it's own set of doomsayers, but as a whole I think we've progressed in the right direction. You can spend your days fretting about every single tech that comes out, or you can except that the world is changing and make the most out of it. Frankly, I don't mind living in the world we live in today, I'm excited to see what comes out next.


The solution is to stop centralized data collection.

The reason it doesn't happen is because corporations don't like giving up control of data that they can keep to themselves and store forever.

Many of these apps could run clientside and access the cloud solely for information, but that doesn't fit in with the Google vision of organizing the world's information and making it useful for selling products and services to advertisers.

Data retention and collection practices that prevent widespread spying must be codified into law for this to ever work. Companies, Google being the shining example, (but Apple and Facebook not far behind) will simply not enforce these boundaries upon themselves, because the data is just too valuable in the context of future algorithmic analysis.

Also, it's not a "slight chance". All these major innovations HAVE been used for evil, from mobile phones to wide-area networking to the web. It's not just fearmongering.


"Also, it's not a "slight chance". All these major innovations HAVE been used for evil, from mobile phones to wide-area networking to the web. It's not just fearmongering."

This is precisely my point, these technologies have been used for evil, but would we be better off NOT having them in the first place? Everything has been used for evil, including pencils. If we loose sight of perspective and only play on the fears, then it's very much fearmongering.

I agree with you on your solution of decentralized collection being better. But I would argue that data analysis involving many data sources, including yours, is what makes a lot of the services being built USEFUL. Google Now being a good example of that. I would also argue, that targeted advertisement is much more useful to me, than non targeted advertisement.


    The solution is to stop centralized data collection.
Centralized data collection gives me good auto-complete in search. It means when I start sending an email to John Smith and Jane Doe it can ask me if I might have meant Jane Roe instead. It means when I lose my phone I don't lose any of my data.


A decentralized solution for that would be to have user's data stored in user's private cloud, encrypted and cached on the client.


One of the reasons that spelling corrections are so good on Google is (probably) that they are machine learning models trained on query logs(1). i.e. if you search for "hacer news", and then without clicking on any results, issue another query for "hacker news" in a very short timeframe, then it will learn that "hacker" is a good suggestion for "hacer"(2).

Similarly for "Mark as Spam", Priority Inbox, Recommended Videos on Youtube, Voice Recognition on Android, etc.

Note 1: Yes, you could also do a pretty good job by having a model of your problem. i.e. computing a weighted levenstein distance where the weights are the probabilities of making that error. However, I'd argue that this would still be better with centralized data; you can compute much better probability vectors. And regardless, the best solutions in the field will be with the combination of both.

Note 2: All of the above is speculation. While I help write some of the tools that these guys use, I have no knowledge of how they write their software. This is just how I'd do it.


I completely agree with the examples you cite. However the parent was giving examples about auto-correction for user's contacts. That is user-specific data and there's no need for it to be shared with a third-party.


Ah, I understand. I interpreted that comment as a list of 3 separate examples where centralization helps.

A nitpick:

Auto-correction for a user's contacts could probably be done on-device, although I'd guess that machine learning across all users will probably massively reduce your success rate. Consider an ambiguous correction; you accidentally type "Gob", but have contacts of "Rob" and "Bob". I imagine that ranking the suggestions can be improved using a globally trained model.


This is a very myopic view that has already caused many deaths. Privacy concerns around medical records have prevented any central database of them from being built, and thus prevented us from saving all of the lives that could be saved by analyzing that data.

Data is what lets us keep hospitals safe by establishing best practices, lets us cure diseases, lets us avoid unnecessary treatment, and just in general, separate fact from fiction. If we can't aggregate data, we can't do those things nearly as effectively as we could, and simplistic views of privacy have prevented this from happening.

There are plenty of concerns about data, and plenty of ways of mitigating those concerns, but a blanket condemnation of any centralized data would hold humanity back immeasurably (and in fact, already has.)


> This is a very myopic view that has already caused many deaths. Privacy concerns around medical records have prevented any central database of them from being built, and thus prevented us from saving all of the lives that could be saved by analyzing that data.

This line of reasoning seems similar to arguing that, by not creating a society in which 95% of people live in sanitized hospital rooms and the remaining 5% of people are doctors and nurses, we have "already caused many deaths".

Yes, the fact that people value things like "privacy", "being in large groups where others could be ill", and "moving from place to place" will "cause deaths". But that doesn't mean individuals should be forced to abandon these things for better health outcomes. While some benefits could certainly come from centralizing medical records, I tend to think that benefit cannot justify compelling people to keep their records in a centralized database, in the same way I don't think the health benefits of not traveling justify banning travel. You may not value privacy, but I think that in a truly inclusive society that values the individual, privacy should remain a real option for those who value it.

> There are plenty of concerns about data, and plenty of ways of mitigating those concerns, but a blanket condemnation of any centralized data would hold humanity back immeasurably (and in fact, already has.)

I agree that a blanket condemnation of centralized data is also not a good approach. Each individual should be able to make this choice in a meaningful way, with respect by default that any given person might care about it.


It's a cost-benefit tradeoff like anything else. Unfortunately, the costs are filtered through fear-mongering and the benefits are trade secrets, so the debate is particularly ineffectual.

The thing I find most aggravating about it is that the standard for harm for data seems to be "What could a totalitarian government do with it?" and there are very few useful things that couldn't be used for very bad things in the hands of a totalitarian government (newspapers, for instance.) Meanwhile, companies can't reveal all the useful things that are consequences of their data because that makes them vulnerable to both competitors and spam.

So we're pretty much stuck with only uninformed opinions and worst-case scenario analysis, which isn't a rational way to approach anything. The only way I can think to improve the debate is for privacy advocates to focus on actual harm that has actually happened to someone to at least keep things grounded in reality.


Part of the problem is that privacy, at least in this context, is framed as a "debate" at all, rather than as a matter for individual choice.

Some people would gladly share medical information for the greater good if asked. You'd have to pry it from the cold, dead hands of others. The problem is that we currently don't separate those who would like to provide their information from those who would like to refuse because we're greedy for as much information as we can get, or we don't trust people to make the "right" decision.

A system that worked well and that accomodated both views would be one that really respected a user's choice--one that could handle data in a centralized or individual fashion, accordingly. Data that was willingly given could be used under the terms of the agreement without risk of angering people who don't want their data to be analyzed. It would ultimately provide the same benefits while respecting individuals and not creating controversy.

In the medical records situation, you'd have a group of people at one end that would be quite pleased to contribute their information, a group at the other end that would immediately decline, and quite a few people in the middle who would likely fall somewhat evenly to either side. Sure, some people would probably be fear-mongered out of sharing, but I imagine there'd be a lot less of that going on if people knew they could actually make a meaningful individual choice for privacy if they chose to do so. When opt-outs are buried, hidden, and it's not clear that they actually work, skepticism and fear grow. In a system that doesn't try to railroad people to sacrifice their privacy--a system that actually respects the individual's choice--fear would be reduced.

The only way to cast questions around this type of privacy as "a debate" involves changing the issue to compelled sharing of personal information. In a debate over forced participation, I think it's pretty easy to see why thoughts start to drift towards totalitarian concerns.

I think a system that offered real choice for each individual may drastically reduce the current problems from both perspectives, at the price of some engineering overhead.


A few points.

There isn't any coercion going on with any of the things we're talking about. Every technology product has at least the choice to not use it.

It's quite difficult to ask meaningful questions about what users are comfortable with, get meaningful answers, and then figure out how the answer they've already given applies to a grey area situation where the cost of getting it wrong is a lawsuit. It becomes no longer sufficient to treat the data with respect and only use it for beneficial and privacy respecting purposes. You now have to constrain it by another set of rules whose relationship to what's actually happening can be unclear and arbitrary.

Some products work without storing any data. Most don't. For those that require user data to fulfill their basic function, the engineering cost of exempting certain data from certain systems can be much higher. One programmer screwing up becomes a lawsuit.

This is essentially the situation with HIPAA. Everyone is too worried about liability to do anything innovative, so that sector doesn't improve.

If someone is actually harmed by something a company does with user data, then it's entirely appropriate to stop patronizing that company, or to claim damages through all the normal routes. The presumption of not trusting anyone with data in advance of any actual harm is what I object to. Data can do real and permanent good in the world, and some companies are worth trusting (particularly since all of their incentives are to remain trustworthy if they want to continue to exist.)


There isn't any coercion going on with any of the things we're talking about. Every technology product has at least the choice to not use it.

But that's exactly the problem: many of the modern technologies that pose potential risks to privacy don't in practice provide an opt-out for the people whose privacy they might infringe.

Sometimes, you do have a choice. However, if you don't know about it or understand the implications, you can't make an informed decision.

Sometimes you don't get any meaningful choice, for example if governments decide it's OK to share sensitive healthcare information now. Strictly speaking you do have a choice, but that choice is never to visit a doctor or hospital. Try contrasting the dangers from a significant reduction in public trust in the integrity and ethics of the entire medical profession with the hypothetical future benefits of analysing aggregate healthcare data, and let me know which one really seems like the bigger risk.

Sometimes you don't get any choice in practice because your data is collected incidentally. When you were in the background of someone's personal holiday snap, that didn't really matter. When you're in the background of a CCTV image, which is centrally recorded and subject to future data mining operations, it matters more. When you're in the background of numerous CCTV images just because you left your home, which are subject to geotagging, facial recognition, gait analysis, covert audio recording, correlation with other databases such as mobile phone history, ANPR scans and purchase history, permanent archival and any additional data mining techniques that anyone who gets hold of the data might find later... Well, now you're in the plot of a sci-fi short story that doesn't end well.

Except that of course, it's not a story any more. Insurers already bump premiums based on profiling, but that profiling is notoriously inaccurate. Lenders already check credit records, which again are notoriously inaccurate. Employers already not only Google job applicants but in some cases also ask for personal log-in credentials to read through their social networking history. Governments already sell personal data held for legitimate public interest reasons to private parties, and even in seemingly simple cases like the government's vehicle licensing authority in the UK providing details of the registered owner of a car with given plates, this has been widely abused. Where these things have been curtailed -- which doesn't happen nearly as often as it should -- it has mostly been because primary legislation was passed or the rules for government's own departments were updated to cover specific cases, and only after so many people suffered from the intrusion that it became a politically significant issue.

To be clear, I don't object to the idea that there are potentially great benefits to be had from data mining, including in sensitive cases like public health data. But I think you are almost completely ignoring the accompanying risks, despite a seemingly endless stream of failures resulting in serious adverse consequences for individuals whose privacy wasn't adequately protected. We need the rest of how society works to catch up with the capabilities of modern technology before we can reap the benefits without paying too high a price.


>despite a seemingly endless stream of failures resulting in serious adverse consequences for individuals whose privacy wasn't adequately protected.

Such as? Typically it seems that things become a scandal based on hypothetical harm rather than actual harm.


Please reread my penultimate paragraph. That is nothing hypothetical about any of those scenarios, and they have resulted in widespread complaints when discovered.


You described rules being violated or systems performing poorly. You didn't describe people being harmed.


You don't consider it harmful if someone is paying more for (or being effectively denied) insurance, being turned down for a mortgage, not getting a job, or being sent legal threats because they refused to pay a fine for a driving offence they never committed? You and I have very different ideas of what harm is, then.

Of course, in reality it's often difficult to prove that a specific outcome was the result of a privacy invasion. It's not like insurers or employers are going to document that they discriminated unfairly, whether illegally or otherwise, in making their decisions. But we know all the things I mentioned can happen, partly because too many times there have been cases where real evidence was seen, and partly because in some cases incentives are aligned with poor behaviour and it's just plain naive to think it won't then happen if there's nothing to balance those incentives.

Privacy is important because it removes the ability to make those unfair decisions in the first place.


Wouldn't we rather remove the ability to make those unfair decisions? I don't see the data as being enabling here, because for most of the cases you are describing, it's the inaccuracy of the data that is causing the harm, not the data. Some of the classes of behavior you describe, we can outright make illegal, like health insurers discriminating among the people they insure. (Like the affordable care act just did.) Similarly, we could make it illegal for an employer to request access to any private information before hiring someone. That seems reasonable. Credit ratings are terrible and that whole industry needs reform, but I don't think the problem with it is that they have too much data.

First off, let me clarify what I'm advocating for so we aren't talking past each other. I would like for the public to be less skeptical of organizations collecting large amounts of data, and storing it to analyze in aggregate for a variety of purposes. Particularly, if access to the data is controlled, and if it is only used in a sufficiently aggregated form. Society will reap tremendous benefits from enabling things like this.

I don't think of most of the cases you are describing as being related to this.


Privacy concerns around medical records have prevented any central database of them from being built, and thus prevented us from saving all of the lives that could be saved by analyzing that data.

That's a very one-sided view. Just this week, the latest attempt to do this in the UK, the care.data programme, essentially became so politically toxic that it's dead.

This happened for a number of reasons. Some of them were just incompetence, like claiming everyone would receive a leaflet explaining the proposals and the right to opt out, and then finding that not only was your leaflet heavily criticised by medical and IT professionals for being woefully misleading, but when surveyed about 2/3 of adults reported not having seen it anyway. That was the credibility of the programme operators you saw falling down the sinkhole.

However, other reasons for objecting would have stood up even if everyone were fully informed. The data in question wasn't actually going to be available to clinicians like doctors and nurses who might find it useful when providing care. And contrary to the laudible-sounding goals that some medical professionals have suggested, much like those you have been advocating yourself in this discussion, it also wasn't going to be restricted to people like medical researchers.

In fact -- and it is now well-established, beyond-any-doubt, clear-as-day fact -- the data could never have been protected to the extent that was claimed (numerous qualified people have debunked the effectiveness of the claimed pseudonymisation), and the proposed rules and "safeguards" for who would have access to the data and for what purposes weren't even close to restricting it to legitimate medical research of the kind you describe. Those advocating the scheme at government level have once again demonstrated a fundamental lack of understanding of the implications of this kind of technology. There are a few other questions that seem to have been brushed under the carpet, too, like how opting out would supposedly mean your information never physically left your GP's systems, yet paradoxically there were circumstances discussed a couple of weeks ago where some organisations, like police and security services, would be able to access the data centrally via the new system anyway.

The trouble with many of these privacy issues we've been discussing recently -- whether it's Google-esque creepy mass surveillance, or the NHS plans to consolidate and share particularly sensitive data about individuals, or governments monitoring surveillance networks -- is that they are all cases of Pandora's box. Once you've compelled people to give up privacy and they've been entered into someone's database, that data is out there, and it's subject to redistribution and repurposing at any future time, with or without the blessing of the data subjects. Our privacy laws are dangerously underweight and already fail to balance the heavyweight capabilities of modern technologies. Until that gets fixed -- and I mean fixed in the sense that privacy laws are actually enforced and respected at government level -- the only reasonable conclusion is that we should err on the side of caution with giving up personal data, and challenge every attempt to push the boundaries to make sure it's justified.


So? All technologies have been used for evil, going right back to the first homo habilis who picked up a rock. They're also used for good.

Of course we should encourage the good and discourage the evil, but that's a moral pursuit, not a technological one.


Solved then: I see nowhere in this that says that this device is centralizing any data.


sarcasm?


> The solution is to stop centralized data collection.

The world would be a better place if there were no defined country names, zip codes. We should decentralize all our data to prevent evil.


The solution to the privacy question isn't easy so obviously we should all do nothing.


Privacy is a social construct and so it must be dealt in a social way (regulations, etiquettes, norms, etc..) Stopping, hindering, slowing down, or complaining about technological growth for fear of privacy violations, is the same logic used by religious bodies hundreds of years ago to today, regarding advancements in science.


I don't think it's a coincidence that every new product announced by Google involves surrendering more and more personal information to them.

Just once I would love to be proven wrong. But Google just seems like the neediest, clingiest, nosiest spouse one could ever have.


What about this product is requiring you to surrender personal information?


Well, based on the video, they're aiming this as entertainment in some ways. This means your kids are going to run around your house playing these games, sending a 3D map of your residence to Google. Or wait, you lock this feature on your children's phone. Well, you can't exactly control their friends that stop by, or even your own family or friends that visit.

It's not like Google needs to map a complete picture of everything at once. If someone pulls out their phone this week and points it around your room, the location and data is sent to Google. Fast forward a couple of years, and someone does it again, and now they have a little more data of your home. They'll have millions and millions of little cameras and sensors around every corner of the globe, slowly constructing a virtual 3D world in the coming decade.

So yes, even if you don't want to surrender personal information, everyone around you will do it for you, and companies encourage your friends to profile you. It's similar to people uploading and tagging photos of you on Facebook. You can lock yourself in a box, and Google is going to know everything about you, even if you decide not to willingly share information. Most of the world uses Gmail. A friend recently sent out an e-mail for an event. I think I was the only person out of 20 that wasn't using Gmail. How do I not give up my information to Google? I stop e-mailing my friends? How do I contact them? Pick up the phone? Didn't Snowden inform the world of our phones being monitored? Hmm, no e-mail, and no phones. I can't even browse the internet, since the majority of sites run Google Analytics, or AdSense.

Good luck not surrendering information.

Anyway though, I don't think the intentions are evil, it's simply business. Rule number one, if you deal with users, you store as much data as possible. Delete nothing. You don't know where your business will be in the future, and this data might be priceless for improving your service, or expanding into other areas.


There is no need to throw in the casual sexism into your valid criticism. It diminishes your point.


Isn't spouse gender-neutral?


I did edit that particular word.


Maybe the post was edited afterwards?


You are correct. I did not mean to imply that. I'm fully aware men can have all of those same traits and more.


Ha! Now, who's being sexist?


What's the disconnect between Google's value and the information they gather. Obviously that's intentional most of the time, but it doesn't seem like a bad deal to me.


Let me give you another example that goes on the line of your comment.

Days ago a friend showed me how after calling a restaurant (just a number) for doing a reservation and later the contact list displayed the name of the restaurant and an image of it.

Cool, right? Joe and Foo love this feature, but do not know the implications of it: a query is sent to Google asking for the info on a number (one must presume, tied up to your account id). Google now knows which numbers you are calling. and, Assuming they do this just for restaurants (how would they know, the query is sent anyways), they might even know your food preference.


It would be interesting to create some sort of crowdsourced database for these types of anecdotes that could then be sifted through and corroborated. Something like that might bring a bit more transparency to the "deal" we all make with these types of services. I get the whole argument of "well you wanted to use the free service, so now they get to monetize your data", but what services collect and how the data is used is extremely opaque.


The most dystopic uses of data are the ones where you'll never really know it was sold on. Get turned down for a job in five years because the owner paid to run a search in a private database that has something about your illicit past? How will you know?

(Note: I'm not actually that worried about this -- I think society will adjust -- but I think collecting anecdotes only shames the people using your data in ways that are trying to be helpful to you.)


There are laws about pre-employment background checks; in general they can only be run with the consent of the person being investigated, and the person being investigated must be able to receive a free copy. So you will know.

In addition, the FCRA mandates the following cannot appear on background checks:

- Bankruptcies after 10 years

- Civil suits, civil judgments and records of arrest, from date of entry, after seven years

- Accounts placed for collection after seven years

- Any other negative information (except criminal convictions) after seven years


Detailed food preference means religious opinion.

I'm not talking out of my ass: someone who has one of the most innovative companies around shared a real problem they had because of that. If NSA was not completely overwhelmed by bullshit data, they would absolutely use supermarket data to target Salafists.


I would make this trade. Users should have the ability to opt out, but it should opt users in by default so that those of us who choose to use it can have a usable service and the company will have a profitable product.

Most people do not care. I am glad that some people do care, and I read the news actively.

As much as it sends chills down the spines of wary folk, for the time being, the government and the huge corporations have my trust.


It has "Java, C/C++, as well as the Unity Game Engine" API end points, and if it's fast enough to be input to a game, it isn't touching the cloud.

I think you're misreading this. There may someday be a Google product that reads in a full 3d scan of your surroundings, but it's not this product. It's a sensor and some APIs. Until a device is actually released that requires you to upload all data, it seems premature to give up on it.


Maybe it isn't communicating with Google servers in real-time, but I'd be shocked if Google wasn't uploading all the data gathered after the fact.

> Until a device is actually released that requires you to upload all data

No, no, it won't be required... it will just be on by default, and the opt-out will be buried in a submenu hidden under the "Advanced Developer Options" section.


Or it won't do it at all?

The closest analog would be the Android camera, and it asks if you want to turn on autoupload or whatever. And it doesn't upload at all if the camera is being used by an app, even if you have that turned on, which would be the same case if people build apps to use this device.


> The closest analog would be the Android camera

I disagree. The closest analog is the Google location services, which continuously uploads data about your position and local wifi networks to Google, and is not very transparent about what it's doing: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2384751,00.asp


It's literally an extra camera and a "depth sensor" (which is likely itself just another type of camera). So no, the analog would be the camera you're already carrying around with you.

It's far more likely (if this catches on) that this will just be another sensor in your phone that apps can use, and if Google wants to improve maps or whatever, they'll just ask people to "contribute" scans, like they've gotten people to basically make street view for them[1].

[1] http://www.google.com/maps/about/contribute/photosphere/


That's nothing, they actually track store visits now to monetize ads. And if you opt out then a lot of things including Google Now stop working.

http://digiday.com/platforms/google-tracking/

I find it odd that stories like that don't get much exposure on HN unlike negative stories about Apple, Facebook, Microsoft etc.


See. This is the stuff that I don't like. While Tango is cool, self-driving cars are cool, and Google Fiber is needed, I feel like Google is only doing these things to collect data about me.


> I feel like Google is only doing these things to collect data about me.

They are. Selling ads is basically the only way Google makes money.

It'd be nice if they at least offered the option to pay $X/year to use Google services without tracking. But I think that would be unlikely, because it would highlight the value of the data many people give away freely.


How exactly do you think Google's amazing query suggestions work? Hint: it's that data that you tried so hard to make sound creepy.


What makes you think it's necessary to store "every single keystroke, including backspaces" for that?


So it sounds like Google will soon be able to pop up a warning saying I should go for a medical checkup because they've detected an increase in left-hand errors that often occurs prior to a stroke. And this is without Tango - that will yield far more data about our physical well-being.

Every advance humanity makes can be used for good or evil. On the whole, we tend to find more good than evil in most of them, and maybe global data capture will be the same.



> I'm not saying that Google is evil.

Google probably isn't evil, but is getting naughty.

On Android, they make it so difficult to avoid data collection. One example, which frustrated me yesterday: To access the Play store on Android, you need to enable background data sync. The problem is, there is no indication of what that background data is, and how do I turn it on only for the Play store. The UI is so designed that you can only enable or disable sync for all of Android, and clicking on a given app's name starts syncing that app automatically (there is no confirmation and there is no toggle to turn it off for that particular app).


I feel like it would be foolish to pass up the opportunity to be studied by algorithms. I hope that the rich data about me one day becomes useful in even more fantastic ways than simply marketing advertisements to me.


You are not being studied by algorithms.

When you go to the doctor, you are not inspected by a stethoscope, you are not inspected by an X-ray CT, you are not inspected by a scale. You are inspected by a doctor who is using those things.

When I make decisions about consent, I am not primarily considering if I trust the tool. I am considering if I trust the person using the tool. My doctor wants to stick me in an X-ray CT? Okay, I'll consent to that. My employer or my insurance company wants to stick me in an X-ray CT? They can fuck right off.

You are being studied with algorithms.


Really simple solution to this: stop using new technology.

Unplug. Stay away from cities and other people who have devices.


There is no reason this is necessary though, we could achieve so much with local applications and processing.


>so they can have a map of your room, too, in case they, or other parties, ever need it.

You mean like the blueprints that were provided to your local municipality when whoever built it applied for a permit?


There is a slight difference between those plans being at a state bureau versus a recent snapshot being at a private company that can correlate vast amounts of data from you and others.


We should stop using Google products that case.


on one hand this sort of thing concerns me, but on the other hand that's just amazing. just comes down to trust I guess


>With this data, they can tell if you are regularly more impaired (fine motor control) at some times than at others, or if you're growing more impaired over time and match that against the content of your queries, etc.

Not that this does them much good when Google Now (or, as I affectionately refer to it, Google Later) grinds my phone to a screeching halt and plays mercilessly with touch input.


"- Johnny Lee and the ATAP-Project Tango Team"

Johnny Lee was the guy with the awesome Wii Controller demos back in 2007 (can't believe it's been that long).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jd3-eiid-Uw

edit: here's the full set of demos: http://johnnylee.net/projects/wii/ (also, I'm assuming it's the same guy, but his site says he's at Google now)


I am so happy to see a familiar face when I played the video.

Back in 07/08 when he demoed his hacks in TED it really blew my mind. [1]

I was really hoping someone would pick him up and let him loose on some projects.

I guess Google did just that.

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0H1zrLZwPjQ


He worked on the Kinect project at Microsoft as well. In fact he put up the prize money for the Open Kinect contest run by Adafruit to develop drivers for the Kinect.

http://procrastineering.blogspot.com/2011/02/windows-drivers...


I was Google when they were trying to hire him, he turned them down to go work at Microsoft. Its interesting to see him at Google these days. I was really inspired by his projector/Wii hacks. I even built a couple with some of those pico projector units that Woot gets now and then for $100. My interest was building a simpler structured scanner for doing 3D printing.


Watching the demo in the 2nd half of the I thought, cool I can watch video in 3D without wearing goggles. And than I heard the head tracking really works only when 1 user is using it. Well dang it, I will sacrifice spending time with wife if I can watch a movie in 3D without wearing goggles...

I see that his focus moved from living room TV/game console to a mobile device...


Yeah, I was really disappointed at the time that Nintendo didn't move on it, as it obviously worked really well out of the box, with no hardware modifications needed.

It could have made an awesome additional experience to some games (even if it was optional), and they could have done it with no accessory required.


I tried out his demo back then and unfortunately it isn't as impressive in real life as it is on video. The problem is that at the distance you usually have your television the most important depth cue is the stereo separation of images, i.e. what you get when wearing 3D-glasses.

So while the objects move around as if you would move in relation to them - your brain still tells you that the image is painted on the surface of the television.


I think he was tech lead for Kinect at Microsoft for a while, before Google snatched him.


Awesome, I thought I recognized him! I was talking about him recently to a friend. Those demos were inspiring and very cool.


Pretty awesome to see what he's been up too.


I wish I could go back to the time when I thought this kind of thing was awesome. Nowadays, it's just one more aspect of our private lives that'll be stored on Google's (or whomever) servers, sold to advertisers, harvested by the NSA, and abused by law enforcement. Add some object recognition to the 3D scanning, and you can start getting marketing messages about how much better [Featured Brand]'s refrigerator would suit your needs, courts will rule that no reasonable person would expect the interior contents of their house to be private and require a search warrant, and the DEA will be able to find something that looks enough like drug paraphenalia in the images from anyone's home to justify a home invasion of whoever their preferred target of the moment is.


I suppose the good news is that 3D point cloud data in context of a public setting wouldn't be much more invasive than the already-pervasive video surveillance we have today.

The bad news is as you say: having mapping data of your private residence siphoned off by third parties, be it government or private industry.

I would say I'm as excited as I am worried about the potential for this technology. That said, I think the privacy implications are very similar to Kinect, which is already here. The only difference perhaps being mobility.


Did HN react to the Kinect or Kinect 2 this way? It seems like there's a lot of burden put on Google to not do stuff that could be creepy even though that's all they do.


I can't comment on "HN's reaction" because I don't tend to put much stock in trying to draw a consensus from HN.

However, my recollection is that there was a reasonably vocal reaction to the privacy implications of Xbox One / Kinect 2 in gaming and tech media, although they mostly related to the timing of the first Snowden leaks. This article is a pretty good example of the media hype around it: http://www.theverge.com/2013/7/16/4526770/will-the-nsa-use-t... .

I think the "always-on" nature was more criticized than the point-cloud/time-of-flight abilities of the camera, but pushback against more and more ways to collect data attached to equipment made by big tech corporations isn't exclusive to Google.


I suppose the obvious answer is "Because they don't need to mine your data - they already got your money."


If you don't want to show something in the map you yourself create of your own home, then just don't include it in the map.

Having point cloud data of your home in general is a complete non-issue, I'm sure most of the time the government already has floor plan data for your home.


I am fine with the government having my floor plans for administrative, safety and regulatory issues. I am not fine with private, data-mining, advertising companies having up-to-date point clouds and imagery of my home.


Seriously?! This kind of talk sounds just like conspiracy theory to me. If the worst case you can come up with for this tech is that the DEA will be able to find pictures of drug paraphernalia YOU YOURSELF take pictures of and upload, then I really can't see why you take issue with this tech. Just don't turn the room mapping service on to take pictures of stuff you don't want online; you're still in control here. Besides, if the government really has it out for you as an individual, they won't need pictures of the inside of your house to justify searching it, I'm sure they can come up with any number of other reasons. Do you put stickers over your phone camera to prevent the DEA spying on your room to see your drug paraphernalia? No? I didn't think so.

The possible benefits of this tech are tremendous, and far outweigh any crazy conspiracy theory downsides.


My comment was somewhat tongue in cheek and hyperbolic, but none of it is outside the range of what goes on with every other similar technology today. My main point was that I used to be excited about stuff like this, but now I just wonder how new tech will be abused to deliver ads.


Such a boring and cynical way to see the world. Even if the technology is used to target ads to you more effectively, how exactly is this a bad thing? How are you being harmed?


I think this probably speaks to some paranoid tendencies more than it does to the environment that Tango exists in.



Please don't be a dick on HN. There are other places for that.


That's unnecessary.


[deleted]


> All your doing is slippery sloping your way into a cynical Utopian future which exists only within your own psyche. Your comment reeks of paranoia and baseless conspiratorial fear. If all you can think of in relation to the uses of cool and new technology is someone taking advantage of you than this is most likely the wrong industry to be participating in.

What you label as "paranoia" and "baseless conspiratorial fear" is better described as "examining the potential consequences of the things we build". You are advocating that we examine only the positive potential uses of the technology we develop and that we ignore the potential consequences, because "we'll work it out and everything will be awesome!", or something.

Perhaps the potential consequences will never come to fruition--but it's still very important that we examine them. There's a real shortage of that going on, which is why some people post negative reactions to these developments rather than something more balanced. Stop trying to dismiss those concerns and that conversation--if you're not interested in hearing it or taking part in it, this is likely the wrong discussion forum for you to be participating in.


It isn't paranoia if they are actually watching you.


[deleted]


The problem is also that, "watching you" is a bad analogy. It implies, like you mention, that the entity has to prioritize who/what they "watch". This is a bad analogy because unlike humans, who can't watch historic events and therefore can only speculate at them (not held up in court), these entities can look back with a high degree of accuracy.

The problem, is no longer that someone is "watching you". Its worse. The problem is that someone, one day, could watch your entire life. Then proceed to pull apart events and use them, mostly out of context, against you.

I wouldn't call myself paranoid. I'm not doing anything about it. Honestly, if the data was only retained a month, unless needed in a current investigation, I would agree with you, this wouldn't be worth mentioning. However, retention of data is cheap and the data of your life will probably outlast you. As such, the parent posters in this convo have a point, it is something worth giving attention to.

PS. And to be quite honest, I don't even care that they can look back at my life and scrutinize me for an email or two. The real fear is that they can pull specific quotes or life choices out of context. You as an individual can't even discredit them because you don't have access to the original files (unless the entity does you a favor and shares them with you). So you can show how innocent the same email quote or life choice is while in context. You are instead left with your memory, and hopefully powerful rhetoric to convince a jury you are innocent.


I think you meant dystopian. And those are all logical conclusions, based on the information we've learned in the last 8 months.


Except Google sold SketchUp back in 2012: http://techland.time.com/2012/04/26/google-sells-sketchup-wa...


Really cool. I love how this could help the blind (my first thought when I saw how it worked - glad it was acknowledged in the video as a use case). The stuff Google's working on (and the face they're making it public is really exciting me (this, Glass, contact lens etc.). The more I see the more I think I'm going to spend more time developing for Google's platforms and less time developing for Apple's. I'm sure Apple has a few cool projects they'll be sharing this year but Google seems to be the one pushing the boundaries.


Since you mentioned it here is a project I'm working on with blind and visually impaired users with Glass https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEDg0k1HsH8 and I'm interested in extending it using something like tango.


Excellent work. Tango would make this incredibly powerful although I wonder how long it'll take to get those sensors packed into Glass.


I'm looking forward to the first first-person shooter built on Tango. E.g. a ghostbusters game in which you walk around in your own house, the ghosts only being visible through your Tango.


How about tactical coordination and mapping for teams (i.e. paintball / special operations)? I'm picturing the HUD 'map' from every FPS game, except it is based on the current view and relative locations of the team's devices.


How about a HUD that projects a map onto a firefighter's SCBA facepice?

That would be absolutely incredible... Firefighters die every year because they get disoriented and lost in zero-visibility conditions. Even if it didn't have a pre-generated map of the structure loaded... it could build a map as it went, and at least be able to provide a 'retrace my steps' view.


This just adds a depth camera to the phone and uses it and the visible light camera to map the space and orient the device. If a human is disoriented in a no-visibility situation due to smoke, the cameras will not likely be able to orient them either, except maybe something like a power outage, where visible light is unavailable but the depth camera can still function.


In the case that a new image couldn't be mapped, the phone could still use its gyros to determine orientation and provide a route out along the mapping that it had made during ingress. A first-person-shooter-style "this way to the next waypoint" arrow, or something like that, could provide directional cues in low/no visibility situations.

It could also be networked with other devices, such that all of the routes mapped could be composited and help in the identification of alternative routes should one become blocked.


Why does it need to be a visible light camera? Why not infrared?


Depth camera isn't visible light, but will likely also be blocked by smoke.


I wonder at what point ITAR kicks in for that sort of firefighter equipment. I know traditional night-vision is covered, and I can certainly see "smoke-vision" having straightforward military applications.


This is an issue with current firefighting technology. Thermal imaging cameras are quite common in the fire service. Most manufacturers limit the frame rate of the camera to 9fps or less, as this falls beneath the 'fast camera' spec for ITAR.


This will eventually (hopefully?) get integrated into Glass, and provide that kind of HUD some have been waiting for.



Imagine combining this with an Oculus Rift, so that you can make your house look however you want within the level, and you can move around through this new world. It would take virtual reality to an entirely new level


There was a short movie made on exactly this concept... I

SIGHT: http://vimeo.com/46304267


That movie is more of an AR HUD.

Instead consider you won't see the actual items in the room. Polygon shapes will replace "real-space" items (coffee table, sofa, bed, doors) but can be dungeon items (for D&D) or items in an evil corporate waiting room (a la Mission Impossible or Metal Gear).


Yes, mapping geometry/mesh to real world structures/skylines/halls/rooms of real locations, geolocation, orientation of device and local structural data. That is when augmented reality really takes over. We may even see a time when looking at something without some sort of augmented view is strange. Tango seems to be going right at that.

Personally I cannot wait to be chased by Cloverfield like monsters/creatures along the skyline and weaving in between buildings downtown. Movie ads are going to be amazing.


If those are just the ads, what are the movies? Holodecks?


Its future offspring could be the pinnacle of AR (Augmented Reality), add data as an overlay to the existing world, but in such a way that depth and perspective is preserved. In your case, seeing Stay Puft peek through my bedroom window would probably unleash a very real sensation.



Good idea! :)


My submission:

3D Printing is a big data problem where the data is not being collected. Sensors in desktop 3D printers are usually restricted to simple limit switches on the axes.

We would use Project Tango for a real-time feedback system for 3D Printing. Initially, we would demonstrate a simple functionality: recognizing when a print is failing and instructing the machine to stop, rather than waste more material. Next, with the help of the open-source community, we would expand functionality to dynamically adjust machine instructions to compensate/fix problems observed during the print. Here are a few examples:

- adjust bed height for different layer heights via software rather than manual hardware tinkering

- dynamically change extrusion rate if underextrusion/overextrusion is observed

- detect if belts are slipping & correct extruder positioning

- pause print is no filament is extruding

- intelligently resume print if stopped (e.g. power failure)

- inform slicing software if/where/why a print fails so the software can reslice and repeat properly

For users, no new hardware will be needed besides Project Tango - a computer will stream GCODE instructions via USB to a RepRap-like 3D printer (e.g. Makerbot, Ultimaker, etc.). Project Tango is precisely the breakthrough we have been waiting for to make 3D printing more user friendly.


You can do that right now with a gazillion of applications that do photogrammetry. Project Tango is nothing new per se. Just add a stereoscopic camera, choose software and add the analysis/decision-making. Some links to get you started:

http://insight3d.sourceforge.net/

http://ccwu.me/vsfm/

http://www.cs.cornell.edu/~snavely/bundler/

http://www.arc-team.homelinux.com/arcteam/ppt.php

http://ti.arc.nasa.gov/tech/asr/intelligent-robotics/ngt/ste...


"Unfortunately, due to FCC restrictions, we can only send development units to incorporated entities or institutions at this time."

That's a bummer.

Also, the page's default background-color should be set to black (or something dark). Most of the text is white(ish) and with a slow connection the background images take a while to load, making it impossible to read while you wait. /rant


This is a little creepy actually when you think about it. Here is this amazing new technology and the government says that only corporations are allowed to possess it. I'm sure that there are reasons but on the face of it I feel like it is right out of a cyberpunk book.


That just indicates that it hasn't passed Class B certification yet (under Title 47 CFR Part 15), which basically means that as an unintentional RF radiator (that is, at least in part not an intentional radiocommunication device), it hasn't yet been shown not to interfere with other devices. Even the wall wart for charging your phone needs to meet Class B in order to be sold or supplied for household use.


It's probably because sending to a company can fit under testing purposes but going to a person needs to be more rigorously controlled for interference and the like. Still, an unfortunate and old fashioned restriction in today's culture.


I suspect a single-person LLC would count, and in most states (other than CA) you can set that up for less than the cost of a phone.

http://www.andysirkin.com/GetDocument.cfm?Resource=224&Hit=1

[this is not legal advice]


Sunbiz.Org, Florida is $125.00 for an LLC.


Here's the application I thought was immediately obvious: memory palaces.

Based on the old mnemonic trick of taking a real physical location that you know well, and associating memories with objects in that space. The digital version of this would be having files and data stored in a "physical" place - although they're not solid, they'd be tied to a single location.

Harder to organise, but I know several people who have completely filled their computer's desktop with shortcuts, because they don't like futzing around with folders. The folder metaphor isn't the be-all and end-all, there are times when it's appropriate and times when it's not. The metaphor of icons that are dragged around the screen is limited by available screen space - Project Tango gives you a house-sized (or even just room-sized) 3D space to play with, more than enough for all the files you could need to be immediately visible.

The main risk is that my virtual room could end up as messy as my real room.

I don't know how anyone could make money from this, but it would be really damn cool.


Here's the best idea I can think of with this technology.

Imagine taking a scan of your pantry, refrigerator, and/or laundry room. Then mark everything as what it is (e.g. "box of cheez-its", "milk", etc). Then come back a few days and do the scan again and it'll tell you what's missing. Once you return from shopping, scan again saying what the new items are (even if they aren't what was there). The software would probably need to recognize certain shapes so a slight rearrangement/movement doesn't change. It'd be like history/bookmarks/favorites for perishables!


Isn't it much easier to just look into your refrigerator/pantry and keep a mental track of things? There are a few pitfalls to your suggested method:

* It takes a good amount of time scanning and cataloging everything and we are taking about a world where people don't find enough time to scribble down these things on a piece of paper.

* What if you pulled out cereal box A and cereal box B but switched places when putting them back?

* Since its scanning the boundary of objects, it won't be able to tell you if your Milk is empty, half empty or full.

The one thing I could think of where this is useful is in scanning rooms/objects which are for sale. Like 3d scanning the bike you are going to sell, or a realtor using it to provide a virtual 3d tour of a house. However, Microsoft already did it with their Photosynth program and regular photos you take [1], so I am not sure how this is going to fair if it turns out to be expensive.

[1] http://photosynth.net/


My idea was more of a replacement for a shopping list, not necessarily one's memory. To do diffs on physical environments may help situations where the contents of the diff matter. Maybe you don't have to catalog, maybe it can just show you what shape appears to be gone. Yes, there are many practicalities not ironed out, but I could see it being useful.


I think the automated fridge/pantry will be sort of useless right up until the point where it becomes seamless.

Then it will just be a nice convenience, not a big deal.

But that describes huge swaths of technology, so go figure.


Speaking of food related ideas, when can a grocery store let me just pick up things, and walk out the door? Why can't I walk in a grocery store, swipe my credit card, then just fill up bags, and walk out? Or pause for a second at the door as it verifies my CC is good for that amount, then allow me to walk out.

It's such a waste of time to get groceries, wait in line, unload them at the cashier, scan them all, pay for them, reload them again.

Couple of ideas...

1. Some type of RFID tags built into all items, so the checkout can read all the prices when you step through the scanner.

2. You order everything online at home. When you get to the store, you swipe your CC, and your order is automatically picked in the back warehouse, and comes out out within a minute. Downside, this wouldn't work for certain produce, where you want to pick the bananas that look the best, or the green onions only if they're up to your freshness standard. However, it could be combined, so you order 95% of your groceries ahead of time, then just pickup the few extras and add them to your order waiting at checkout. This would mean 95% less time picking out items, faster checkout times since 95% of your items don't need to be scanned, or bagged.


If it's already missing it needed replacing yesterday.


You don't need a 3D scan to analyze what products are there. Google Googles has done this very well for years and its 2D. The main tech you need here is image recognition, not 3D analysis.

But image recognition on a 3D scan may be more accurate (and processor intensive). Possibly more error prone though.


I swear you could just write a "HN comment generator" script for these sorts of articles:

input: $new_google_tech

output string: "$new_google_tech will let Google know more about you! I disapprove! Also, NSA."

Repeat. Occasionally sprinkle with insightful comment about the actual technology being introduced.


This kind of technology will lead to very big changes in the surveying industry, which is big. Also will lead to open 3d city models (the next openstreetmap will be in 3d and textured - IMO gmaps and apple maps will lose out to this eventually) and real-estate models (see your apartment without actually visiting) which will lead to lnock-on effects for a range of other property industry fields. Academically - urban studies (a field mostly based on experience and conjecture) will benefit hugely from realistic 3d modelling...



Funny, the official tagline of the project is "We like epic shit". http://i.imgur.com/mvcyUX4.png

https://plus.google.com/115422404677762786098/about


I wonder if Google has a stack of experimental projects to release whenever a competitor announces some headline grabbing news.


PR works better when you don't compete with competitors for attention. You either beat them to the headlines, or you wait a couple of days to find a clearing. This announcement is interesting, but not nearly the scale of WhatsApp/FB.

An exception might be if you have a very similar announcement. Doing so would get you included in the same articles as your competitor.


>announcement is interesting, but not nearly the scale of WhatsApp/FB.

Wait, what? Why would Google view the WhatsApp news as competitive? Other than it setting an insane price and inflating bubbles more, how is the FB acquisition really useful news to anyone?

This tech will have far more impact on the world. Apart from the few people doing startups, FB buying WhatsApp will have almost zero impact in day-to-day lives.


> FB buying WhatsApp will have almost zero impact in day-to-day lives.

I was only responding in the context of parent's PR comment, re: scale of press worthiness of the day. Tech sites have been covering WhatsApp/FB non-stop for the past 24 hrs.

As for impact on the world, this is just a call for developers. I'm encouraged by the ambition, but it's too hard to judge if this will be successful. FB/WhatsApp will almost immediately affect 400M users (+1M more per day).


Or maybe it's the other way around.

Facebook got some news that Google is about to announce an ambitious, experimental project so they preempt it by buying WhatsApp for billions of dollars.

/sarcasm


Interesting to see that this is coming from ATAP - the one part of Motorola that Google kept in the sale to Lenovo[1]. I was curious to see if they would merge the ATAP group into Google X, but I guess they're going to keep it separate and just rebrand it as Google ATAP.

[1] http://www.theverge.com/2014/1/29/5359068/google-keeping-mot...


I'm shocked by the distinct focus on fear and doubt about Google's intentions with this technology -- does it really matter that much?

The rising tide lifts us all, and this technology can be ubiquitous within twenty years. Isn't that worth it?


Google is enormously huge, and the breadth of their product line is jaw dropping. This fact causes the instant reaction of connecting every "innovation" that comes out of it to be connected to greed for more and hunger for data. This would be an overtly exciting Kickstarter project to find out about, but when it is from Google, the perception is that they are managing to invade one more market.

They are the Internet, they have the half of cellphone market, they sell apps, books, CPU cycles, they sell Chromebooks, tablets, they make maps, they provide apps for chat, video conferencing, they've made an online office suite, they store your documents, they make the mobile OS that is sold on other company's mobile phones, they do mobile payment, they create programming languages, they employ Ken Thompson, Rob Pike, and probably the guy you envy the most, they have quantum computers and they do a sh*t load of other things that I can't bother to remember (Translate, Youtube, G+, Blogger, Groups, ...).

It is not possible (for me, at least) to attach Google the childish excitement that two geeky weirdos with scruffy hair bear for their fundraiser. Google is now the hot kid in the school, who's tall, strong, handsome and athletic, who also plays guitar and is very successful at his exams, speaks three languages and represents his school in the drama festival, and also participates in the school band as whoever the guy who gets the most attention in a band.

Innovation is good for science, but it is harmful to the collaborative efforts when it comes from companies that should've been saturated. When Google dies (like anything else), it will fell over the crowd that lives under it's shadow.


Did you ever read "The Transparent Society"? In that 1996 non-fiction book, sci-fi author David Brin suggested that the decreasing cost of data collection and storage gave us two basic paths.

In one, data and data about access to data would be widely available, giving us an unprecedented level of citizen oversight of society. Think sunshine laws increased a thousandfold. In the other, access to data would be limited, and those who had the data would have incredible power. The kind of power that totalitarian states dreamed of but never achieved.

Every Googler I've met, which at this point is quite a number, is a fine person. I trust them as individuals. But for my tastes, Google as a company is already more than sufficiently powerful. Power corrupts. Power attracts the corrupt.

At this point, I think everything new they do should be treated with suspicion. Not hostility, but with the same sort of scrutiny that we should monitor every other dominant megacorp.


This technology inside Google Glass would be pretty killer.


As long as it's in the phone, couldn't you tether it to Google Glass to generate a real-time HUD based on where you were? (and perhaps also capture images to attach to the 3D model)

That was the first thing I thought about - actual augmented reality down to the inch would be quite something.


With future versions of Google Glass perhaps. The current version does not have a display that can provide a HUD in the way that it seems you are thinking.


You don't have to tie it to google glass. You can make the phone itself serve as 'window' onto the "down to the inch" augmented reality.


It relies on some hardware sensors which are in the phone.


The first thing I imagined is a wearable with a clicker for the blind. You say navigate me to ___, and the clicker gives you hot and cold signals (lots of feedback vs. less) as well as maybe a buzzing feedback if you're approaching a hazard.


You could apply current directly to your head to provide necessary signals, similar to how tDCS works. No buzzing required.


This is the return of Johnny Chung Lee! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Lee_(computer_scientist)


Isn't the next win turning your house / apartment into a game world / holodeck using something like this together with an Oculus Rift?

Household layout and furniture are mapped out, then re-textured to represent a castle, evil lair, enemy corporation, etc. Textures can update allowing the story to reuse each room as different places as you progress - the same way the holodeck area is actually small but uses optical illusions to give you a sense of greater mobility.

Not saying we have holodeck. But it's a step towards.


I wonder if it uses the machine vision aspect to prevent the typical problem of accelerometer drift. e.g. by orienting itself relative to walls/other stationary things.

Also, imagine making a 3D "scanner" that you can scan objects with into a virtual world, or print out on a 3D printer.


Accelerometers usually don't have significant drift - digital gyroscopes do. The acceleromters are quite noisy though (and measure both gravity and acceleration). From some of the brief images in the intro movie it looks like the cameras are doing tracking and alignment of "interesting" features. Things like that fall into the Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) technology area. Very cool stuff.


Well, maybe was I just unlucky, but I tried to use an IMU for my SLAM and was shocked by the extravagant amount of drift of accelerometers.


Do you mean the accelerometer values drifted over time (i.e. the direction of gravity shifted on a stable accelerometer) or do you mean the value when doubly integrated drifted?


Right: the doubly integrated values shifted while the sensor didn't move.


*drifted


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