Google to counter Amazon’s Echo Show with smart screen device, sources say

Google is rumored to have a new smart device in the works, TechCrunch reports. The tabletop smart screen for the home will serve as the competitor for Amazon’s Echo Show, which has been on the market since June 2017. If true, such a device would keep Google in the smart home market race with Amazon and Facebook.

The rumors follow Amazon’s announcement Thursday of a cast of new Echos. The company now has a total of seven Amazon Echo devices to choose from. With Amazon covering all the bases in the home, and essentially ruling the current smart home market, it’s about time Google expanded from Google Home into other smart home products.

TechCrunch gathered their information from two confirmed sources, one of which received the intel from a current Google employee. TechCrunch learned that the new Google smart screen has been dubbed “Manhattan” internally. It is unclear if this will be the final launch name for the device.

As far as size goes, it appears to be measuring up with the Echo Show, with a screen around 7 inches. One source told TechCrunch that Google previously played around with much larger sizes for the smart home screen, some designs as large as television screens. For now, the plans seem to have honed in on the smaller, tabletop screen.

Manhattan will offer Youtube, Google Assistant, Google Photos and video calling. It will also be able to act as your home’s “smart hub,” connecting with other smart home devices like Nest.

The original launch date was planned for mid-year 2018. Sources report that there is “internal pressure” to get the launch date moved up after Amazon’s Echo Show. With October and the end of 2017 just around the corner, it’s probably safe to assume that the release date will remain some time in 2018. As TechCrunch points out, “establishing smart hub partnerships” and “exploring the possibility of service partnerships with Best Buy Geek Squad and Enjoy for home installation,” the many moving parts surrounding the launch for Manhattan seem to ensure a 2018 launch.

Sources told TechCrunch that Manhattan will run on a version of Android. This will ensure flexibility for third-parties to build apps for it.

What remains unclear is the final price for such a device or even the final look. As the Amazon Echo Show retails for $230, it’s possible Google’s competing device will come out at a similar price range.

Earlier this week Google removed Youtube from Amazon’s Echo Show without any warnings for current Echo Show owners. Critics claim the removal was strategic, as Youtube will be available on Manhattan. With Youtube capabilities on offer, Manhattan owners would be able to stream music videos from Youtube or watch live cable channels on Youtube TV.

It’s too soon to tell if this would give Manhattan enough of an edge to topple the Echo Show. Many disagree with such a prospect. Fast Company has said that once the mystery device finally arrives on the market, assuming it will, “Amazon will already be a step ahead with its second-generation Echo speaker and new devices like the Echo Spot.”

With a biting finish, Fast Company challenges Google’s ingenuity, claiming that Google should stop “lifting ideas” from Amazon and start bringing to market fresh perspectives of their own making.

Google is helping online news companies get money out of readers

Google is developing tools to help online news companies get people to give them money, as the Verge reports. It remains unclear how much of that money Google intends to keep for itself.

The plan is to make it harder for people who can pay to read without paying. The changes should come in September.

Arguably, companies like Google and Facebook are themselves responsible for robbing online news organizations of digital advertising dollars in the first place by chewing up 60 percent the market. That’s part of why news organizations need subscriber money so badly.

Since the internet virtually wiped out physical news subscriptions, news companies have had to hustle to find new sources of money while retaining their journalistic credibility. Many reputable news sites have put up pay walls, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. While non-subscribers are allowed to view a limited number of articles on these sites, only paying subscribers have full access to all articles.

Google’s plan includes allowing non-subscribing readers to access full articles if they arrive at the site via Google search. The plan also includes other strategies designed to bolster subscriber numbers. Overall, the effort is intended to make it easier and faster for readers to subscribe, partly by better targeting readers using Google’s tremendous stores of data.

As Bloomberg reported, the New York Times and the Financial Times are among the news organizations working with Google.

In February, the Wall Street Journal struck back at Google’s search results policies which it claimed “discriminated” against paid news organizations. Google’s policy is not to list search results which are hidden behind a paywall.

Featured Image via Pixabay

Changes are coming to Google’s search results page

As reported by TechCrunch, changes are coming to Google’s mobile search.

Now: video previews

Now, whenever your Google search query returns video results, Google will automatically play a six-second video clip on the results page to give you an idea of its contents.

Don’t worry: the preview will be silent. Your search results will not be broadcasted to the world.

The video previews will not simply be the first six seconds of every video since the first six seconds of any video aren’t necessarily the most accurate reflection of the contents of the full video. That’s why Google has devised a program which can sift through the whole video and select a sex-second clip which, hopefully, gives you a better idea of what you’re about to watch. For each video, the same six-second clip will load for every user.

Google’s servers individually set the previews for each video, so not all videos will have previews yet. But the majority of videos people are likely to search will already have video previews ready. It may take a bit of time for newly-added videos to have previews available to load.

The new feature will work with most major video servers, including Google’s own YouTube.

Google hopes this new feature will give users an idea of what a video has in it, without any need to scrub through the video manually. It will also help users filter out videos that only ever show a single frozen image.

Currently, the preview feature is only available for mobile users via the Chrome and Google apps.

Upcoming: Google’s data-friendly search app

Video previews are not the only change Google has brewing for its search page. Google has been testing a data-friendly version of its search app, as Android Police reports.

The advantages of the new app are pretty straightforward: low data usage, high offline capabilities, and workability with slow connections. It won’t include as much pre-loaded data. It won’t include all the bells and whistles of the full Google search app, but it should work well for users who only need or can support the basic functions.

The app has also been designed to be simple and easily accessible.

The app is not yet available to the U.S. — a pilot version called “Search Lite” is currently being tested in Indonesia.

Right-wing protestors postpone anti-Google demonstration

Right wing protesters have a march on Google due to what the group’s website calls “credible Alt Left terrorist threats,” CNET reports.

The demonstration, which conservative activist Jack Posobiec organized to protest the firing of engineer James Damore, who distributed this in-house memo about gender and business, was set for Saturday, August 19. The group, known by the monicker March on Google, planned to organize at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, CA, as well as at Google facilities in eight other cities around the country.

“We hope to hold our peaceful march in a few weeks’ time,” the group said.

The postponement comes in the wake of violence at an alt-right protest in Charlottesville, VA this past Saturday. During the march, a number of skirmishes allegedly broke out. After the rally had dissipated, an alleged neo-Nazi drove his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, injuring several and killing one.

One prospective “terrorist” allegedly threatened “to use an automobile to drive into the March on Google protest,” according to the group’s site, which also says “relevant authorities have been notified.”

The Mountain View police department told CNET that despite the postponement, law enforcement plan to “maintain a heightened presence” in the area “in an abundance of caution.”

Following the Charlottesville incident, March on Google posted a message condemning the events and asserting that March on Google was “in no way associated with any group who organized [in Charlottesville].”

“The March on Google condemns and disavows violence, hatred, and bigotry and all groups that espouse it such as White Nationalists, KKK, Antifa, and NeoNazis,” the group wrote in another post, which goes on to say that the protest event is “open to [those] from all backgrounds, ethnicity, and walks of life.”

The group claims its tenants were misrepresented by the media. “CNN and other mainstream media made malicious and false statements that our peaceful march was being organized by Nazi sympathizers,” the group’s website says.

Damore, whose memo, according to CNET, attributed the gender gap at Google to “biological differences between men and women” (CNET’s words) rather than institutional sexism, gave an interview to Stefan Molyneux, whom The Washington Post has described as “one of the alt-right’s biggest Youtube stars.”

fundraiser for Damore has raised almost $50,000. The text describing the fundraiser indicates that it is sponsored by a far-right group. The fundraiser’s description says Damore was attacked by “the radical Left,” which “has been whipping up hate mobs to get independents, libertarians, conservatives, and simple contrarians publicly shamed, bullied, and fired from their jobs for years.”

However, CNET points out that Damore described himself as a centrist in a Reddit AMAand told CNN after Charlottesville that he “does not support the far right,”

Google, meanwhile, is taking flak from both sides of the political aisle. While groups on the right say the company’s termination of Damore violated his freedom of speech, others on the left blame Google for firing the engineer only after the issue went public.

Last Thursday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai canceled an “all-hands” meeting meant to address the memo controversy, after numerous employees reportedly voiced concerns about their privacy and personal safety. Several members of Google’s staff have been subject to online harassment of late, according to Wired.

“In recognition of Googlers’ [i.e. Google employees’] concerns, we need to step back and create a better set of conditions for us to have the discussion,” Pichai wrote to employees, per Recode, adding that “in the coming days” the company would “find several forums to gather and engage with Googlers, where people can feel comfortable to speak freely.”

Pichai has said the memo violated his company’s Code of Conduct and crossed “the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

Recode further quotes the CEO as saying: “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.”

 Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

Google to face lawsuit over gender pay gap

Google is once again making headlines this week due to a familiar issue in Silicon Valley—the gender pay gap. At least 70 current and former female employees are expected to file a class-action lawsuit against the tech giant with the help of a San Francisco employment law firm, Altshuler Berzon LLP.

James Finberg, the civil rights lawyer and Altshuler Berzon LLP partner spearheading the class action suit, told Forbes that several dozen women came forward in just “a matter of weeks” after the firm posted both Facebook and LinkedIn notices “seeking women currently or formerly employed at Google for possible inclusion in a planned class-action lawsuit alleging gender pay discrimination.”

Since this week’s firing of Google employee James Damore, the suit has gained more fire and Finberg expects to go public “a lot earlier than [they’d] hoped or expected.”

This class-action lawsuit follows closely on the heels of a similar suit filed against Google earlier this year by the United States Department of Labor (DOL) citing evidence of an “extreme” gender pay gap within the tech company. Finberg told Forbes the current suit will draw evidence from the DOL analysis, whose evidence was taken from a collection of 21,000 employee salaries at Google’s headquarters.

Some of the concerns women are sharing, according to Finberg, are that women are being channeled into ‘softer’ jobs that are compensated less than, say, coding is and that women’s prior wages were used to create their Google salary.

If the latter were to be true, Finberg comments, “That’s institutionalizing gender discrimination, and it’s against California law.”

Although the year may be 2017, and you can’t seem to walk down a street without bumping into a feminist, women continue to earn less than their male counterparts in the workplace. Despite a certain Google employee’s claim that the gender pay gap is a myth, the data proves otherwise.

According to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2015, women earn an average of $0.80 for every $1 men do. The report broke this down by age as well, indicating that younger women have a narrower pay gap than older women do. This gap tends to be wider for older women, as they faced bigger gaps when starting their careers than younger women do, hurting their long-term earnings.

That $0.20 wage gap adds up at the end of the day, costing women a loss of around $10,470 each year, according to a report published by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) in March this year. For a white, 20 year-old-woman just starting her career today, that loss over a 40-year period adds up to a grand total of $418,800. If that same woman’s male counterpart were to retire at age 60, it would take her another 10 years (retiring at 70), to close that gap. The same NWLC report notes that this situation is compounded even more for women of color. Depending on the state she lives in, a woman of color might have to work past the age of 100 in order to bridge the gap to her white male counterpart.

Finberg and Altshuler Berzon LLP intend to move forward with the class-action suit “within the next few weeks.” It looks like stories about Google and the gender pay gap will be gracing headlines throughout all of 2017.

A Google employee’s manifesto calls for ideological diversity instead of gender parity

A manifesto titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” written by a software engineer at Google has garnered attention not only within the company but also throughout the broader media. The attention has been largely negative, as many commentators have found the manifesto to advance sexist arguments.

The manifesto was originally disseminated via the company’s internal email, but it has now been leaked. You can read the entire thing over at Gizmodo.

So, what does the manifesto say?

The author of the manifesto claims there is widespread discrimination against ideologically conservative employees at Google. It bewails the existence of mentoring and hiring programs at Google which target specific groups of people based on gender, race, or other factors.

The manifesto also claims that gender gaps in tech are the naturally-arising result of differing biological tendencies and capabilities among men and women, not the result of widespread discrimination against women.

The manifesto’s author writes: “I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.”

According to the manifesto, “Women on average show a higher interest in people and men in things.” It goes on to suggest “there may be a limit to how people-oriented certain roles at Google can be and we shouldn’t deceive ourselves or students into thinking otherwise (some of our programs to get female students into coding might be doing this).”

The author of the manifesto speculates: “Allowing and truly endorsing (as part of our culture) part time work though can keep more women in tech.”

Additionally, the manifesto bemoaned the inflexibility of male gender roles as compared to the flexibility of female gender roles.

Internal reactions

Within Google, employees have tended to respond negatively to the manifesto, and many have taken to social media to express such views. However, at least one article suggests there may be some internal support for certain points raised by the manifesto.

Google’s VP of diversity, Danielle Brown, who was hired mere weeks before this incident, spoke out against the manifesto, saying:

“Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.”

In response to the outcry against the manifesto, its author affixed the following statement to the manifesto: “I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes.”

Previous problems with diversity at Google

In January of this year, the U.S. Department of Labor sued Google for withholding records related to compliance with labor regulations. An investigation ensued, and by April the DOL came back and accused Google of “systemic compensation disparities against women.”

Watchdog Group Calls on FTC to Investigate New Google Advertising Technology

An unidentified watchdog organization is urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google’s new advertising program Store Sales Management (SSM), which collects purchase data and shares it with advertisers, The LA Times reports

When Google announced the program in May, saying the “revolutionary” technology would track the credit and debit card purchases of 70% of United States consumers, allowing analysts to draw unprecedented correlations between online ad clicks and brick-and-mortar sales for the first time.

Google did not disclose the means by which it obtained the transaction data, nor did the company explicitly confirm that customers had consented to have the data shared. The company did say, though, that its “partners” had “the rights necessary” to use the information.

A confidential algorithm anonymizes and encrypts the data so that the identities of individuals remains private. The company maintains that it does not have access to the names and personal information of specific users and that it does not release the information of any individual Google user to the advertisers. Google presents the data in aggregate: it may say, for instance, that of the 20,000 people who clicked on an ad, 11% bought the product.

The complaint asks the FTC to investigate the encryption algorithm to ensure that it is ethical and secure. Allegedly, SSM’s encryption mechanism employs a technology called CryptDB, which has been breached before. In 2015, researchers hacked a healthcare database that was encrypted via CryptDB.

Presumably, one aspect of the investigation will look into whether Google itself indeed lacks the ability to trace purchase behavior to individual consumers. If individual purchase information is available, and consumers do not know how Google obtains it, then those who wish to maintain their privacy have no avenue by which to protect their information. The LA Times points out that purchase history can reveal a number of intimate details about a person, such as religious beliefs, medical conditions, etc.

Google says users can opt out of SSM at any time. Those who wish to do so can go to their My Activity page, click “Activity controls,” and then disable “Web & App Activity.” However, the complaint alleges that even with “Web & App Activity” turned off, Google collects server and click data.

Despite earlier claims that Store Sales Management was revolutionary, in response to the complaint, Google has said that the technology is “common.” Indeed, services such as amazon.com track customer purchases, and curate “recommended for you” sections, as well as other content tailored to a specific consumer. Yesterday, news broke of Starbucks’ plan to launch an app that will track customers’ purchases and make recommendations based on a staggering array of factors.

Google is taking a step forward by connecting online purchase data with brick-and-mortar. From an advertising perspective, those connections are valuable, for they are important data points that have hitherto been absent from advertising research.

Much of the trepidation on the parts of groups like the Rotenberg’s is born out of suspicion of the specific practices Google is using to collect the data. The internet behemoth has been secretive about those practices—understandably so, given that confidentiality protects security. Secretiveness, though, can also conceal unethical behavior. If Google is accessing individual purchase records without consumers’ knowledge or consent, it could easily use “security” as an excuse to block regulators’ efforts to investigate the system.

Google’s website claims services like SSM use users’ data to benefit users. In some ways, they do, and many users are grateful to have an experience tailored to their tastes. But, if consumers don’t know how or whether Google is obtaining and using their data, they have no volition to protect their own privacy as they see fit.

Some checks and balances are healthy in an environment where manipulation and deception can pad the bottom line. As prominent as Google is, those checks and balances could be should be employed to ensure the giant is acting responsibly.

“Google is seeking to extend its dominance from the online world to the real, offline world, and the FTC really needs to look at that,” said Marc Rotenberg, the organization’s exGecutive director.

Google and Facebook have a duopoly

The field of digital marketing is dominated by two Silicon Valley superpowers: Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc, the latter of which controls Google and a family of other companies including YouTube.

Google and Facebook, which also controls Instagram, both have enormous masses of users and data. That gives them an advantage in the online advertising market since they can gather data about their users and deploy targeted ads to maximize users’ clicks and their own revenue.

Independent online advertising-focused companies have found it difficult to wrest market control from Facebook and Google. Although networks and service providers such as Verizon have tried to gain a foothold in mobile advertising, the two superpowers remain dominant.

In fact, Facebook and Google are so completely dominant that the research firm eMarketer predicts this year the two will take in 60 percent of revenue in the United States, and about half worldwide. (Reuters)

In the last quarter, both Facebook and Google proved enormously profitable. Each generated billions in profits.

Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research, claims that digital marketing is approaching a saturation point, past which point growth will slow and revenues will settle. Although Facebook and Google are experiencing quick growth in the market now, there are limits to the growth of the market itself. Wieser worries that the investment community has not fully appreciated this prediction.

In the past month, a group of news organizations banded together to lobby to be able to negotiate jointly when dealing with Facebook and Google. Antitrust law normally prohibits this kind of coordination.

Some people are worried that the sheer size of Facebook and Google will reduce marketplace competition and result in a worse result for the consumer. However, Facebook and Google don’t seem yet to have flagrantly violated antitrust law.

Google has previously been at the forefront in monopoly investigations. In Europe, there are multiple investigations pending into Google’s possible monopolistic practices. Last month Google paid the European Union a $2.7 billion antitrust fund. Google had been favoring its own commercial services in search results.

Facebook has previously denied that it is part of a duopoly and claimed that it only controls 5 percent of the advertising market.

However, both companies are clearly gearing up to expand their control of the advertising market, particularly of video advertising. YouTube has released new original programming with big names like Kevin Hart and Ellen Degeneres. Facebook has similarly signed deals with Buzzfeed and Vox Media to release its own video series.

How Google Can Track Disease Outbreaks

Google is now putting its massive power to work tracking disease outbreaks. Of course, it’s not really Google doing the work so much as it is the billions of people who type search queries into Google every day.

Researchers at Harvard University have successfully created a mathematical model to track the spread of infectious diseases using Google searches, as detailed in an article published in the journal “PLOS Computational Biology.”  The Harvard study tracked dengue fever in Brazil, Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand.

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease which afflicts around 400 million people per year. The symptoms of dengue fever include a high fever, nausea, headache, and skin rash. In the vast majority of cases, dengue fever isn’t fatal. It clears up after about a week, and there are generally no lasting aftereffects.

Dengue fever remains a persistent problem in many underdeveloped countries, where it can be difficult to track and combat outbreaks.

In the Harvard study, researchers tracked searches related to dengue fever on Google “Trends.” They also examined data about past outbreaks from health agencies. The idea is that when an outbreak occurs, there will also occur a corresponding spike in Google searches related to the symptoms of dengue fever.

These methods produced more accurate results than previous studies attempting to track disease outbreaks using Google data. The model worked best in countries with long histories of recurrent dengue fever outbreaks, and in countries where outbreaks occurred in high numbers.

The model produced the worst results in Taiwan, which has a short history of only a few years with dengue fever outbreaks.

Researchers are also using websites other than Google to track the spread of infectious diseases. Previously, researchers from Northwestern University modeled the spread of the flu using data from Twitter. They were able to predict flu outbreaks 6 weeks earlier than with other methods.

Facebook to Allow Publishers a Subscription Fee

Facebook is planning a new tool that would establish a means of adding subscriptions to news organizations that publish directly on the social media outlet. The intention behind this new tool is to help pacify the tension the social media giant and publishers, who find their audiences shifting more to what becomes available on Facebook.

The potential newly innovated tool will be included by Facebook’s Instant Article product, which allows new media companies to publish their articles directly onto Facebook, granting immediate access to the article, instead of transporting readers to the news website.

While the details are still in its preliminary stages, it has been theorized that Facebook may be introducing a metered pay wall product similar to those used already by the news publishers. For example, after reading a set amount of articles on Facebook by a particular news provider, a user will be sent to that news provider’s subscription page to continue reading more articles.

Before Facebooks has a large rollout, it plans to start a smaller pilot with a group of publishers using the tool in October, and should the tool prove promising, then the early initiatives will be expanded. It has not been established which publishers will be included in the pilot testing, not any details regarding the types of publishers based on size, frequency or popularity.

Tensions have increasingly risen with the advent of online platforms like Facebook and Google amassing more readers through their mass influence, allowing them to expand into the consumer digital advertising market. The constant increase of control over the online distribution of news has threatened publishers’ business model, stimulating a response by publishers to gain group bargaining rights enabling more effective negotiations with online platforms.

While nearly all publishers have adjusted their priorities to increases digital revenue, most are still seeking profitable long term solutions. Publishers recognize the importance and mainstream relevance of online platforms, as well as their role as a medium for allowing articles to be broadcasted to larger audiences.

However, these also include serious drawbacks for publishers, as they lose valuable ties to their readers, making loyal relationship building far more difficult, while also affecting subscriber data and payment connections. Publishers fear that readers are becoming more and more accustomed, which they are, to staying in Facebook to consume news, instead of visiting directly the publisher’s websites, threatening both future growth and livelihood.

Facebook on the other hand has also received criticism from publishers regarding the ability to distribute false or unverified articles that push an agenda or for the sake of trolling that readers can mistake for real. This propagating of false news has been an already reported issue that other companies such as Twitter have been developing means to filter and restrict its spread.

This is also an important issue for Facebook as other companies have been able to use the tensions between Facebook and publishers’ wariness to their advantage. Google has introduced its AMP tool that offers a way to expedite the delivery of partner’s articles in search results, while Amazon in the meantime has been paying publishers to post articles on Spark, its commerce-related social network.

This move by Facebook may offer a way of dealing not only with the tensions between the two parties, but also as a means of dealing with other issues including regulatory and antitrust scrutiny. Furthermore, a Facebook subscription offer would move the platform to closer regulating the relationship with the reader, capitalizing on a role previously filled by the news outlets themselves.

While it is not clear as to whether Facebook will benefit financially from a new subscription feature, but the feature does encourage more time spent on the social media site, and helps foster more attachment to the services provided. There are some issues regarding the number of publishers that will be allowed to post directly to Facebook, as there is a chance for this to be exploited by users by staggering the number of articles they read per month from each unique publisher. In this case, users will be able to benefit without needing to pay, which may result in some serious consequences on Facebook’s part.

Featured Image via Pixabay

Google Glass, v. 2.0: The Workingman’s Glass

Google Glass, the heads-up display apparatus resembling a pair of glasses, is making a comeback on the floors of factories around the country, Viad Savov of TheVerge.com reports . The second generation of the product, called Google Glass Enterprise Edition (or Google Glass EE) , has been purchased and is being used by companies like Boeing, GE, and DHL. Today marks the end of a nondisclosure period imposed upon companies using Glass, and the beginning of Google’s parent company Alphabet’s effort to introduce Glass to a larger pool of businesses.

So far, companies are pleased with the product. According to a statement by Project Lead Jay Kothari, GE says Glass has cut down on human error at crucial junctures of assembly and overhaul processes, and increased efficiency by 8-12%.  Company officials at AGCO, which manufactures agricultural machinery, say Glass has allowed workers to produce products 25% faster, and has slashed inspection times by 30%. DHL estimates its supply chain efficiency has improved by 15% since it began using Glass. The Glass HUD gives workers instructions and shows them videos, so that they don’t have to stop working to consult manuals.

“Employees are now working smarter, faster and safer because they have the information they need right in their line of sight,” Peggy Gulick, AGCO’s Director of Business Process Improvement, told Kothari.

Healthcare professionals at Dignity Health have been using a note-taking software developed for Glass that records information provided by customers in conversations with doctors. With Glass taking notes for them, doctors can fully engage with patients. Dignity’s Chief Medical Information Officer, Dr. Davin Lunquist, told Kothari the breakthrough technology has reduced administrative work by more than 23% and given doctors twice as much time to interact with patients.

Alphabet’s vast network of partners has developed a diverse collection of software for Glass. Each piece of software is tailored to a specific type of task. For its supply chain operation, DHL runs Ubimax for Glass. GE uses a program created for Glass by Upskill. Dignity Health employs software developed by Augmedix to turn Glass into a sort of dictation device.

As more and more software is developed for Glass, Alphabet expects the product to expand into an increasing array of business sectors.

“…we’re looking forward to seeing more businesses give their workers a way to work faster and in a more focused way, hands-free,” Kothari says.

In its first generation, Glass was envisioned as a consumer product. In March 2013, Alphabet issued a beta version of Glass to 8,000 “Glass Explorers” who had applied via Twitter. In January 2015, the company announced the end of the “exploration period,” but promised to “continue to build for the future” and told Glass enthusiasts to “hang tight” for an “exciting ride.”

That future may be here now, even if it’s not quite what fervid tech-heads expected. The new, business version of Glass features a better camera than its predecessor (8 megapixels as opposed to 5); longer battery life; faster WiFi; and an enhanced processor, according to Savov. Moreover, Glass Pod, the module that powers Glass, can be attached to a range of compatible frames, including certain varieties of safety goggles and some prescription glasses.

Alphabet is confident about the future of Glass, but reticent to define exactly what that future will hold.

“We’re not going to prejudge exactly what that path is,” Astro Teller, the chief of Alphabet’s experimental X division, told Savov. “We’ll focus on the places that are actually getting value out of [Glass] and go through the journey with them, being open-minded about where it’s going to go.”

But Kothari assures the world that Glass is moving full-steam ahead, and quickly, even if the precise direction is unclear.

“This isn’t an experiment. It was an experiment three years ago. Now we are in full-on production with our customers and with our partners,” he said.

Featured image via Flickr/Ted Eytan

Microsoft Sales Reorganization May Produce Layoffs

Microsoft recently reorganized its global sales force to highlight its focus on selling cloud services instead of standalone software. This reorganization is not the first the company has faced since former CEO Steve Ballmer resigned and Satya Nadella took over in 2014. While the series of structural changes the company has undergone have not immediately resulted in layoffs, the Wall Street Journal reports that thousands of jobs have the potential of being made redundant.

The reshuffle does not appear to have a huge impact on how Microsoft conducts its daily business. The company has already been placing a priority on its Azure cloud computing platform and selling software subscriptions to businesses ever since Nadella, the former head of Microsoft’s cloud division, had been appointed CEO. These changes show a steady shift away from its previous business model of selling one-time software licenses for products like Windows and Office, as these products are not long-term revenue funds. Cloud services instead provide a large portion of Microsoft’s revenue stream by selling software services to enterprises, which does not require as many sales persons in contact with consumers.

Cloud services are attractive because they are able to scale with its user, while also allowing the resources and staff allocation to be managed by whoever is providing the service. Services typically include online data storage and backup solutions, document coloration services, database processing and the management of technical support services. The reason why this is a lucrative option for Microsoft is that it able to constantly provide these services to enterprises, reaching a larger scale than it would if serving consumers, and in return for the services Microsoft maintains a steady revenue stream.

Despite the progress towards cloud services increasing Microsoft’s revenue stream, Microsoft is still trailing behind Amazon with the massive success it has had with its AWS business. Furthermore, Microsoft needs to look out for further competition from Google and its growing cloud division. AWS is the market leader and combined with Azure and Google Cloud Platform the three of them make up the fronts runners in the field of cloud services.

Accepting that AWS is dominant, Azure outplays Google from a business standpoint, while Google is more popular from a consumer standpoint. It is clear from Azure contribution to Microsoft’s revenue stream that cloud services are its future, and while they continue to constantly improve its services for enterprises, there is an opportunity for growth by also emphasizing on consumer services. This would allow Microsoft to asserts its position as a cloud service provider for enterprises, while also drawing from the user base that mostly utilizes the Google Cloud Platform.

Microsoft has stated that it will now focus on two distinct areas, big enterprise customers, and then small to medium-sized businesses. While the specifics of the changes have yet to be clarified, the sales reorganization was designed to align Microsoft’s resources to meet the need of its customers. Nadella is making some much-needed changes to transition Microsoft away from its old ways of mass sales team selling one-time products to a larger focus on product innovation.

Returning to the potential layoffs, while the magnitude is not yet clear, the cuts are expected to be made in offices globally, as Microsoft tries to slim itself down. Microsoft’s stock has been growing over the past 5 years and is currently up 11% since the start of the year. One can expect a further increase in stock, as there is a trend of stock increasing during layoffs. It seems this reorganization will only be affecting people working in sales.

Canada’s Supreme Court has Google Block Search Results Worldwide

Google has been ordered by Canada’s Supreme Court in a British Columbia court ruling to delist entire domains and websites from its global search index. The 7-2 ruling addresses the actions required in the Google v. Equustek, which was Google being requested to take down search engine results in Canada leading to domains and websites belonging to Datalink Technology Gateways. Google has now been ordered to add the same restrictions, but applicable to their worldwide search engines results, and not just those in Canada.

In Google v. Equustek, British Columbia-based technology company Equustek Solutions accused Datalink of relabeling one of Equustek’s products and selling it online as one of their own products. Equustek further accused Datalink of acquiring trade secrets in order to create a similar competing product. The business ethical issues that stealing another company’s product as your own had clearly been violated.

Considering that they never appeared in the court ruling, how does Google play into this situation between two separate companies? Google voluntarily agreed after being requested by Equustek to remove Datalink search engine results, delisting over 300 websites associated with Datalink. However, these websites were only delisted on the Canadian version of the search engine, meaning that they were still accessible everywhere else in the world.

Considering this, the Supreme Court of British Columbia granted a more encompassing injunction ordering Google to stop displaying search engine results globally for any Datalink websites. Google responded by appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada, arguing that the right to freedom of expression should prevent an order restricting global search engine results.

Regarding freedom of speech, there a few consideration regarding Google’s actions. While Google certainly has the right to display the search results of any websites or domains, the individuals or companies associated with their respective websites must not violate others through the unlawful sale of goods. Google acted that the unlawful sales of goods were occurring in Canada, and therefore volunteered to delist the relevant websites. However, considering the nature of the internet, restriction in Canada does not equate to dealing with the unlawful sale of goods. Datalink was able to sell another company’s products internationally.

While it is suggested that the Supreme Court of Canada is issuing an injunction outside their jurisdiction by overruling the conduct of Google that is legal in other countries, this is not, in fact, the case. Instead, the Canadian Supreme Court is only issuing an injunction to the activities of Google pertaining to its relationship with the dispute between Equustek and Datalink. While the effects may be global, this in no way means that the Supreme Court of Canada is overexerting their power.

This ruling has received much praise as it is a step in the direction of countering common unethical behavior affecting companies that use the internet as their primary market. The protection the ruling grants helps prevent illegal online activity and may see some results remedying careers and investments that have been victim to such illegal activity.

There may be unintended repercussions that could significantly limit Google and its activities. Having to obey rulings that directly influence your global market despite pertaining to local cases can lead to many countries exercising a similar ruling. However, Google has not experienced the effects that illegal online activity concerning third party companies can have on its own practices. Google will need to monitor and preemptively delist companies engaging in illegal activities, otherwise it will be facing similar hits that will not only limit its freedom but also hurt its reputation, resulting in further damaging consequences.

EU Watchdogs Declare Google a Monopoly

When a company’s name becomes a verb in the dictionary, there may be evidence of a monopoly.

Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that EU antitrust regulators have declared Google a monopoly and accused the tech behemoth of “anti-competitive practices.” The EU’s ruling was accompanied by a $2.7 billion fine and is expected to be followed by further regulation as the EU continues an aggressive investigation of the mobile phone and online advertising arms of Google’s business.

Google’s new monopoly status makes it easier for competitors to bring civil suits against the company. “We can expect to see a series of damages claims brought by the rivals that were excluded from the market by Google’s conduct,” said Peter Wills, co-head of competition law for Bird & Bird in London.

Google has historically remained more or less impervious to the regulatory efforts of watchdogs like the EU, as well as to general trends in the technology market. Share prices in Google’s holding company, Alphabet, have fallen just 1.8 percent, despite a prolonged selloff of technology stocks. Since the EU began investigations of Google in 2015, the company’s stocks have doubled. Today, Google boasts a $666 billion market capitalization, making it the second most valuable stock in the world, behind Apple.

However, the EU’s similar declaration against Microsoft in 2004 checked the Microsoft’s expansion into then-budding markets like internet advertising, thereby opening the door for Google’s rise. The recent ruling against Google may well facilitate the growth of some hitherto unknown corporate entity.

Typically, when the EU administers a regulatory punishment like the one it has levied against Google, it also mandates a specific course of action by which the company can repair the problem. The union’s decision not to provide such a mandate to Google, evidence of the EU’s ambivalence about how to handle the business implications of modern technology such as algorithms, means Google will have to devise its own strategies to reduce its “anti-competitive practices.” Ultimately, Google must prove that other companies pose significant competition to its business.

The classification of Google as a monopoly “will provide a cornerstone for assessment of other ongoing cases, especially regarding Android and Adsense,” says Jonas Koponen, competition chief at Linklaters law firm in Brussels. The EU’s review of these cases may lead to repercussions far more damaging to Google.

As it stands, websites that pay for the use of AdSense are prohibited from running ads that promote Google’s advertising competitors. If the EU forces Google to allow AdSense customers to run its competitors’ ads, Google would likely have to radically change is business models, or risk losing a considerable portion of its advertising revenue, which accounted for 85% of Alphabet’s total revenue last year.

The Android investigation could carry its own far-reaching implications. Currently, Google preinstalls its Google Play app store on all devices running the Android OS. If new regulations allow phone manufacturers such as Samsung to feature their own app stores on the phones they build, Google’s dominance could be further stunted. Moreover, Samsung, other phone manufacturers, and the host of other companies Google has bullied out of various markets could bring civil suits against Google.

The EU has been consistently tough on the giants of the technology industry. In 2016, it demanded 13 billion euros’ worth of unpaid taxes from Apple. In 2004, the regulatory pressure it imposed on Microsoft allowed Google to emerge amongst the world’s leading technology companies. Now, the EU is putting similar pressure on Google itself. Technology is rapidly changing the ways companies operate and forcing us to reevaluate business ethics.

Featured Image via Wikipedia

Who Has Been Given a Record Breaking E.U. Fine? Top Search Result: Google

The European Commission has given Google a record-breaking fine of 2.4 billion euros for abusing its market-dominating search engine. Google was able to use its search engine to its advantage in the fiercely competitive and rapidly expanding market of online shopping.

Google have been given 90 days by the European Commission to end the misconduct. If Google fails to comply with the allotted time period, Google’s parent company Alphabet will face penalty payments of up to 5 percent of its average daily worldwide turnover.

Google’s comparison shopping service was not just attracting customers by making its products better than those of its rivals, which would exemplify the competitive nature of a capitalist market. Instead, Google was utilizing its search engine as a tool to promote its own comparison shopping service in its search results while simultaneously demoting those of competitors. This provided Google with an unfair advantage that would display their own products and positive reviews of their products first to consumers, while failing to display or showing negative reviews of their competitor’s products.

This rigging of the search engine results is considered illegal under E.U. antitrust rules. By denying competitors a chance to compete on the quality of their products and innovation, Google also denied European consumers a genuine choice of services, products, and innovations. It would not be illegal if Google products proved to be more popular, and were able to dominate the markets on its own merits. This would be a challenge that competitors could respond to by further innovating their products and services in order to cater to their shared consumer base. The illegal actions were therefore not the dominance of Google products, but the unfair consumer dominance that arose from consumer use of Google’s search engine that provided Google with benefits that competitors are unable to respond through their products alone.

While the abuse of its search engine has been beneficial to Google, its impact is also important regarding the detriment it has on other companies. The loss of revenue due to consumers clicking more visible search results reduces competitor’s capacity to innovate. This further widens the gap between Google and its competitors, as Google gains a substantially increased revenue stream as to what it would have otherwise been, providing an income supply that can be used to further innovate their products. Google can also monitor its own webpages to reduce advertisements from its competitors, further increasing its advantage in the online shopping market.

EU authorities have been investigating Google claiming the search engine favors its own search results over those of other websites. In response, Google has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, meaning that Tuesday’s ruling will deal a sharp blow not only because of the large fine, but also the decrease of trust in Google’s practices. This ruling also has a considerable impact on Google’s source of sales growth as a revenue stream. It also indicates that the E.U.’s fine of around double the amount of the previous fine reinforces the seriousness of its antitrust policy seriously. The E.U. Commission is sending a zero tolerance message against any future misconduct.

While Google is likely to appeal the fine, its practices will be closely monitored by the European Commission. This should result in a change in how Google’s algorithm works, changing its business model while opening up space for competitors to attract consumers. Given enough time, we will be able to evaluate how attractive Google’s products actually are, and how important the manipulation of search engine results have been for Google’s comparison shopping services.

Google Making job Searching Easier

If you are not stressing over trying to find jobs, are you really doing it right? Some days can be better than others but overall, job hunts are never easy especially online searching. You always think to yourself there has to be an easier way, it cannot be this hard and traumatic. Now, throughGoogle has put out a way to make trying to find a job easier for society. This feature can be used on your desktop or laptop as well as on your mobile device, depending on what you feel more comfortable using. So now the question is how will this work, what exactly is Google doing?

You will still remain on the Google site and type your job search in the normal conventional search bar and then Google will promote a cluster of distinctive job listings. These listings are going to be ones from your most major search engines for finding a job, which include some like CareerBuilder, Wayup, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, etc. So depending on what you search and what specific type of job you are looking for you can narrow down your search. Once you put in the heading to the specific job you are looking for there will then be a blue box with options for you, some will include where a job may be posted relating to your search, or where it is located, how long it has been available for if it is full-time, etc. A number of starter ideas will then appear and you can even narrow those down more and customize to your needs of what exactly and specifically you are looking for with a job and then help to search as many options as Google can.

With this feature, it is seen to be able to help consolidate and categorize data on the web better instead of having so many similar or even identical job listings continually popping up for those in a job hunt. Who knows if this is going to help people or not but it seems to be a step up in the web atmosphere of job searching for the many people in the world because the more specific the better, especially if one is knowing exactly what kind of job they are looking to apply for.

For companies to take part in Google’s launch of this job search they will need to invest and make some adjustments to their website so that then their job listings will more so be able to be one of the first one listed for society when searching rather than lower, because most people will get aggravated and only click to page three or four and will then not see the rest. Not only will this be an upgrade and very helpful for those who are in the job-hunt and search but also for those companies involved, who are posting the different varieties of job listings.

Burger King Ad Sparks Old Debate About Voice Devices

A new Burger Kind ad was created to be able to trigger Googles voice-activated Home smart speaker. This ad was put in place to help advertise the Whopper but unfortunately doesn’t seem to be working anymore.

The ad came out Wednesday and has an actor playing a Burger King worker say, “OK Google: What is the Whopper burger?” Saying that line was supposed to trigger your Google app to read off the definition of the Whopper per it’s Wikipedia page.

It was just three short hours after the ad was launched that it stopped working. Google would simply light up and stay silent. If you prompted it to read you the definition of the “Whopper burger”, however, it would give you the Wikipedia articles first line but wasn’t responding to the commercial’s prompt.

Burger King made a statement confirming that the ad no longer recognizes the speaker and that the trigger doesn’t seem to be working anymore. The fast food giant did say that they expect the ad to start working again soon. A spokesperson for Burger King Brooke Scher Mogan said that consumers will have to “tune in tonight to see if the commercials triggers the Whopper sandwich definition response.”

Google, on the other hand, didn’t give any response to the matter. In fact, a source from the company says that Google was not informed about the ad by the fast food chain before the commercials shooting.

In the past, many commercials have accidentally triggered voice assistant apps in people’s homes. This, however is the first time a food chain has tried to do it intentionally. While it might seem like a clever idea and a great way to sell burgers for Burger King, some consumers in the YouTube comments section weren’t too pleased with the idea.

In fact, one comment read, “When you take over someone’s phone or tablet and have it do your own remote commands intentionally, you are HACKING.”

Yet despite many people thinking that Burger King is trying to hack them, it might be good that the trigger doesn’t work. Not long after the ad aired, many people took to the internet and started changing the first line of the Wikipedia article. Wikipedia users altered the definition to say things like the Whopper was “cancer-causing.” Users even added ingredients like “cyanide” to the burger definition.

It would also seem that after the ad backfired and Wikipedia users began changing things up, Burger King decided to backpedal. They took things into their own hands and soon wonderful descriptions of the Whopper began showing up on the article site. In fact, one description was changed by “Fermachado123.”

It could only be coincidence that the user name noted above sounds suspiciously like Burger King’s senior vice president for global brand management’s Fernando Machado. Burger King, however, didn’t confirm or deny that Machado made any edits to the Wikipedia site.

Yet it isn’t just the idea of being hacked that slightly frightens consumers. Privacy concerns revolving around voice-activated speakers has steadily began to increase. It’s gotten higher since more companies have made attempts to bring this technology to their products. This in turn puts even more pressure on voice-operated security systems and even door locks who are trying to make sure that user devices won’t be trigger by unwanted voices.

The use of advertisement on Google Home has been questioned by a large number of consumers. Many of them simply don’t want to be spammed by what they consider to be personal assistants. Google received a good deal of criticism after an advertisement for “Beauty and the Beast” appeared around the time of the films first showings.

In order to make amends to users, Google issued a statement saying that what users saw wasn’t an ad. The company said that bringing up the film was a way to get users to know about what was timely that day. A Google spokesperson went on to say, “We’re continuing to experiment with new ways to surface unique content for users, and we could have done better in this case.”

As for Burger King, it’s safe to estimate that this epic advertising fail won’t have any bearing on Whopper sales. With fast food still being one of the largest and quickest meal choices, there are over billions of Whoppers sold worldwide. Burger King is probably already back at the drawing board with new advertising ideas.

 

Waymo Still Insists That Uber’s Self-Driving Technology is Stolen

Things between Uber and Alphabet’s Waymo, have only begun to get heated. Just this Friday, Uber made a long-awaited response about the lawsuit that Waymo filed against it. Waymo sued Uber for stealing its self-driving technology. Uber, on the other hand, says that’s just not true.

This Friday, Uber announced in a statement that there’s no way it could have pilfered Waymo’s technology. Uber’s reason for not needing Waymo tech? It says that it’s still using off-the-shelf technology for its own autonomous vehicle testing. Uber calls the lawsuit an utter “misfire.” Yet in doing so, it was forced to swallow its pride and admit that Google self-driving tech is a bit superior to its own.

The lawsuit began in late February when Waymo made accusations that Anthony Levandowski stole over 14,000 confidential documents. Levandowski is a former Google engineer and current executive at Uber. Waymo says that Levandowski used the pilfered documents to entice Uber into buying his autonomous start-up vehicle, Otto. Uber bought the self-driving truck for $680 million only six months after it was launched in 2016.

Since then, Uber simply called the allegations “baseless”, and hasn’t made any statement on the matter until now. Angella Padilla, who is general counsel to Uber, said that, “If Waymo genuinely thought that Uber was using its secrets, it would not have waited more than five months to seek an injunction.”

Uber has since searched Levandowski’s computer, computers of “randomly selected” employees, and the computers of two former Alphabet employees. In its search, Uber says that only one of the 14,000 documents were found. Wyamo wasn’t too convinced and even called the search inadequate. The judge overseeing the case agreed with Waymo and ordered that Uber search harder.

Waymo then attempted to file an injunction against Uber’s use of the cars that contain allegedly stolen technology. This would significantly impact Uber’s autonomous testing. Uber’s driverless cars are everywhere. The company has vehicles like the Volvo XC90 SUVs, which are equipped with LIDAR cameras, sensors, and other self-driving tech, in Pittsburgh and Arizona.

Uber also responded to Waymo’s request for an injunction. It claimed that Waymo hasn’t yet to arrive at the threshold needed for the courts to approve the injunction. It’s also sticking to the belief that Waymo’s accusations are just plain untrue. Padilla said, “Waymo doesn’t meet the high bar for an injunction, which would stifle our independent innovation — probably Waymo’s goal in the first place.”

Uber says that the LIDAR technology it uses for its autonomous vehicles was developed over a year before the company hired Levandowski. Uber also says that the LIDAR sensors they use are muli-lens and not single-lens like Waymo’s. Uber sensors, the company insisted, are purchased off-the-shelf from Velodyne.

These accusations of Uber using stolen technology could hit the company right in the gut. If Uber can develop its autonomous technology enough to make the majority of its cars driverless, it could increase profit. Then it would be able to cut down on its fares and increase demand.

But things aren’t looking too good for Uber. Levandowski invoked his Fifth Amendment right which allows him to avoid self-incrimination. That was a decision made against Uber’s lawyer’s advice. Lior Ron, who helped Levandowski co-found Otto, was also named in the lawsuit.

Finally, it would appear that Uber desires to move the lawsuit case into arbitration. Its argument is that since Levandowski is the center of Waymo’s accusations, as well as a former employee, it should be allowed into an arbitration agreement. This is a clever request on Uber’s part. It would allow the company to avoid the embarrassing and expensive jury trial that is scheduled to begin in October.

Waymo’s spokesperson said in a statement,

“Uber’s assertion that they’ve never touched the 14,000 stolen files is disingenuous at best, given their refusal to look in the most obvious place: the computers and devices owned by the head of their self-driving program. We’re asking the court to step in based on clear evidence that Uber is using, or plans to use, our trade secrets to develop their LIDAR technology, as seen in both circuit board blueprints and filings in the State of Nevada.”

 

US Department of Labor Accuses Google of Underpaying Female Employees

The US Department of Labor says that they have found evidence of a “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce” at Google. It was just this winter in January that the labor department sued the tech giant after it was accused of withholding information regarding a compliance audit.

Back in September of 2015, Google didn’t hand over data on employee compensation that had been requested by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). After Googled refused to provide the data information, the Department of Labor was forced to take the tech giant to court in order to retrieve the documents.

So what was Google’s reason for withholding the information? The company says that it refused to provide the data due to reasons of privacy. It went on to say that the information requested by the OFCCP was “overly broad.”

OFCCP believes that businesses that are under federal contract should comply with federal law, that includes Google. It’s also believed that any contractor that brings in more than $10,000 in business for the government for over a year should provide equal employment. This forbids contractors from “discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin.”

Regional Director for the Department of Labor, Janette Wipper, brought into light, during a court hearing on Friday, that Google pays its female employees less than their male peers. It was later that the Department of Labor’s Regional Solicitor Janet Herold made confirmation of the statement to a source. Herold told the source that while the DOL was still investigating the issue, it has proof that there is “very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters.”

As for Google’s position on the matter? The tech giant completely denies all these allegations. It made a statement to a source saying that it “vehemently disagree[s] with [Wipper’s] claim.”

In its own investigation, Google says it has not found any evidence of a pay gap between men and woman during the company’s annual analysis. Google says it’s the first they have heard about the Department of Labor’s accusations, and that the labor department failed to provide them with any sort of information or data to support their claims.

Later in February, the OFCCP asked a judge for a summary judgment on the matter. The judge denied the request. At the court hearing on Friday the DOL persisted in a prehearing statement that it was imperative the court make Google hand over the requested information it has yet to provide to the OFCCP.

Between the OFCCP and the DOP, both are in agreement that Google should turn over information and is subject to all regulations. In the prehearing statement, however, it was explained that the DOL and Google are clear on a few of their incongruities. One being that employee names and contact information are important to the audit. Another disagreement between the two is that Google believes that it will be subject to “undue burden” by providing this information to the OFCCP.

As for Google facing an “undue burden”, the Department of Labor feels that Google will be under no such burden by these requests or will its business be interrupted by its compliance with federal order. Instead, the DOL believes that Google’s Affirmative Action Plan created just as much of the burden that Google was worried about not to mention the $150 million Google spent toward diversity issues.

DOL also made it known that any of the business that Google does with the federal government has nothing to do with the company’s compliance with federal order. The OFCCP had even offered to pay for the cost of gathering the information need.

Ford Invests $1 Billion in Self-Driving Technology

Ford Motor Co. has decided to jump head first into the self-driving car craze that is sweeping through automakers who want to be the first to come out with the perfect autonomous vehicle. From Tesla to Honda, automakers are doing all they can to further develop their autonomous technology that will one day soon be the future of driving.

Ford recently announced that it will be investing over $1 billion into its future self-driving car. That amount, the company noted, will span out over five years toward the development of start-up technology for autonomous vehicles which has been given the name, Argo AI.

Brian Salesky, who was a Google car veteran no too long ago, and Uber engineer Peter Rander co-founded Argo AI. Salesky left Google’s car program which it renamed Waymo just last fall. When asked why he wanted to start a company with Rander, who he meet at Carnegie Mellon University, Salesky said it was due to the fact that there are “incredible advancements in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and computer vision, but we just needed a partner to get these cars into the hands of millions of people.”

And Ford was more than happy to be that partner. In fact, this type of early stage investment not only shows Ford’s eagerness for automakers and technology companies to join forces in order to provide autonomous cars that will be used every day by consumers.

Ford CEO Mark Fields told a source that, “The reason for the investment is not only to drive the delivery of our own autonomous vehicle by 2021 but also to deliver value to our shareholders by creating a software platform that can be licensed to others.”

Ford joins the ranks with those like Uber who signed a $300 million partnership with Volvo in the development and testing of its version of a fully autonomous vehicle. Even Fiat, who has partnered with Waymo, is working to produce a self-driving Pacifica hybrid minivan. Waymo also announced that in the near future it hopes to sell its technology to other automakers.

Self-driving cars aren’t just something that’s becoming popular in the United States. China’s automaker Baidu had hopes of jumping on the self-driving bandwagon by partnering up with BMW, yet the deal fell through due to differences in the course of the project’s final outcome.

Yet here on the home front, Ford will be busy attempting to figure out what exactly makes the brain of a fully autonomous car tick. The process involves computer algorithms that will have to process data that comes from a series of sensors for things like radars and cameras.

The Detroit automaker already has engineers that are working in this area yet will join forces with Argo AI. Argo AI also says that it has plans to hire at least 200 new engineers by the end of this year.

However, the path to technological innovation has a few pot holes. As many automakers begin to test out their inventions, more regulations for autonomous vehicles stand in the way.

Last year’s Department of Transportation chief Anthony Foxx along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) composed guidelines that would form a set of rules for driving autonomous cars.

Uber ran into problems when testing its autonomous vehicle in California some time ago. The company was told by the Department of Motor Vehicles that since its vehicle was not properly registered it would be able to test it out on the roads. Uber says that since the incident it’s currently working with the DMV to sort out the matter.

Michigan launched its own self-driving test as well. Back in December, the governor signed a proposal that would allow auto and tech companies to test their autonomous vehicles which would be without a steering wheel, human driver, or pedals. Michigan’s proposal is a complete opposite of California’s which only allows autonomous testing if a human is present in the vehicle.

Elaine Chao, who is the new Department of Transportation chief, hasn’t expressed her feelings on the guidelines for autonomous vehicles just yet. However, Ford’s CEO Mark Fields recently met with President Trump along with other automakers and seems more than enthusiastic about the future instore for the set standards of autonomous vehicles.

He commented that the “NHTSA understands the economic, social and safety benefits of AV (autonomous vehicles). Our approach is to make sure we develop one national standard, not 50 states with 50 sets of rules.”