There’s a new way to search on your mobile device, and it comes from the king of search Google. It’s called Handwrite and the concept is simple: once enabled, Handwrite allows you to use your finger to draw letters to input a search query. Google says they “designed Handwrite to complement rather than replace typing.” Handwrite, still in beta but available for the gen pop to try out, is there for times when pecking at a virtual keyboard is tough–like when you’re a passenger in a bumpy taxi ride, for example. Here’s how to enable Handwrite: go to www.google.com on your mobile device, go to Settings, enable Handwrite, tap Save, and refresh the Google homepage. The Handwrite icon (a cursive “g”) will appear in the bottom right corner of the screen letting you know it’s turned on. Once enabled, you can start drawing letters near anywhere on the screen and you’ll see them appear in the search box. See your query autocompleted by Google in the drop-down list? Click it and your search is complete. It works surprisingly well. If you’ve got a device running OS5+, Android 2.3+ (phones), or Android 4.0+ (tablets), give it a spin today. Video demonstration after the break.
Over the past 12 weeks Google’s new social network Google+ has been in “field trial” mode; the only way to gain access into it was by receiving an invite from Google or friends who were invited into the network early. Today all that changes. Google+ is now in beta and open signups are available for everyone. Simply point your browser to google.com/+ to see what all the fuss is about.
Over the course of the field trial, Google claims to have made 91 different improvements to the network. I will share with you the ones that Google finds most exciting.
- The mobile version of Google+ getting an upgrade. Hangouts can now be initiated on the go. When you see an active Hangout in your stream, tap Join to enter it. As of right now Hangouts only supports Android 2.3+ devices with front-facing cameras, but Google promises that the feature will make its way to iOS soon. Update: The iOS update has arrived: link.
- Also on the mobile front… Huddle is being renamed Messenger and it now supports photo sharing. Additionally you can now edit your profile photo, customize your notifications, and (on Android devices) you can move the Google+ app to SD storage to save space.
- On the desktop version of Google+ the company has introduced Hangouts On Air. Users can broadcast and record video sessions; up to nine others can join your hangout (as usual); and here’s the new feature: anyone can watch your live broadcast.
- Additional updates to Hangouts include: screensharing, sketchpad, shared Google Docs, and named Hangouts (“for when you want to join or create a public hangout about a certain topic”). Also, Hangouts APIs are now available for developers to fiddle with.
- Search comes to Google+: “Just type what you’re looking for into the Google+ search box, and we’ll return relevant people and posts, as well as popular content from around the web.”
Click the source links to read about even more improvements, then login to your Google+ account and interact with ‘em first hand.
LittleBigPlanet 2 hasn’t released yet but this here video just amped up my excitement for its impending January 18 drop date. A group of LBP2 beta testers managed to recreate the Windows OS inside the game using the provided in-game tools. How ingenious! The desktop, icons, start menu, a cursor, and even the BBOD are included for good measure. LBP isn’t just about playing the addicting levels packaged with the game–that’s only half the fun. Creating levels and sharing them over the Internet with other gamers makes for a unique gaming experience. And after seeing this faux Windows OS and all its flashy accoutrements I cannot wait to get my hands on the game and brainstorm my own ideas for sharable environments.
If you couldn’t figure it out by reading the post title, Google’s web browser that could is being upgraded across the board. And when I say across the board, I really mean across platforms. In addition to bringing a slew of updates to the standard Chrome browser in version 8, Google also spilled more details about the Chrome Web Store and its forthcoming operating system based on the browser itself. All of the juicy details were shared at a Chrome-themed press event on Tuesday, just one day after Google dropped the Android 2.3 with Nexus S bomb. To say the G-Men dominated this week in tech would be a nasty understatement. Ready, set, dive…
Chrome Web Store: Everyone knows about Apple’s App Store, and it’s about time word of Google’s Chrome Web Store got around. The concept is simple. The Web Store houses Chrome Extensions, Themes, and most importantly web apps. What are web apps and how do they differ from plain ‘ol apps? Google describes them as “advanced interactive websites”, but essentially they are apps built specifically for use inside a browser. And that comes with perks–the best one being that you never have to worry about updating them. Since they live on the web in your browser, updates can be automatically pushed out from the developer at any time without you ever having to think about it. All web app purchases are tied to your Google Account. Perk alert! Since that’s the case, all your purchases app live in the cloud and not on your computer, meaning they can be accessed from any Internet-connected device with a browser (i.e. another computer, a smartphone, etc.). Google is also making it so that apps can work offline, leaving it up to the developer’s discretion. Many developers are already jumping on board to make web apps. At the press event Amazon showcased Kindle for the Web, an app that allows ebook readers to read their purchased titles inside a browser. And no surprise here; your reading library, last page read, bookmarks, notes, and highlights will be saved and seamlessly transported to any device you have the Kindle app installed on (said devices include the iOS lineup, Android phones, and obviously a Kindle reader). The Store also hosts some games, but don’t expect to find anything mindblowing in that genre just yet. It’s up and running today, so head over to the Chrome Web Store and check it out. The layout will be familiar to you; app categories on the left, top paid and free on the right, featured apps in the middle. Go wild. (Click here for more…)
Sick and tired of the same old desktop browsing experience? Are you constantly logging into your Facebook and Twitter accounts and checking up on your latest RSS feeds? If you answered “yes” to one or both of these questions you might want to give RockMelt a spin. RockMelt, backed up Netscape founder Marc Andreeseen, is a modern browser with a social twist. First off, it’s fast. It’s built on Chromium, the open source project behind Google’s Chrome browser; so if you’re used to Chrome browsing speeds, you know what to expect. Here’s the social aspect. To use RockMelt you must sign into it with your Facebook account; that’s right–it’s the very first web browser you sign into. But there’s an upswing to this; you can access your browser information, including social integration, RSS feeds, and more, on any computer that has RockMelt installed. Social integration, right. So you log into the browser using your Facebook account. The left side of the browser populates a list of your Facebook friends and you can chat with them, send and receive messages, and view status updates. The right side of the browser stores your Twitter followers and their updated tweets, along with a running list of website icons representing individual RSS feeds so you can keep tabs on your most frequently visited sites. RockMelt boasts “push notifications” meaning that it will keep track of and alert you to updates from Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds. The browser also promotes URL sharing among your connected social networks; there’s a built-in URL shortener that’ll push your favorite sites and posts to friends. Search is faster, too. Worried about privacy? Don’t be. RockMelt developers promise that login information and settings are encrypted before they are sent over to RockMelt servers for cloud storage.
Want to get in on the RockMelt craze? The browser is currently in beta (so expect numerous bugs pop up) and the developers are enabling the Internet at large to participate in an early access hands on with it, so along as you’re willing to fork over your Facebook username and password (remember, that’s required to use the browser). Hop over to the RockMelt homepage to “connect for an invitation.” It runs on Windows and Mac. Look after the break for a video demonstration to learn more about RockMelt. For beta software it runs pretty well, and if you’re a heavy Facebook/Twitter user you’ll surely appreciate the social integration aspect.
You’ve heard of UStream? Well Google is looking to add similar functionality to their popular video site. Today and tomorrow YouTube will be testing a live streaming platform with four content partners: Howcast, Next New Networks, Rocketboom and Young Hollywood. The platform seemlessly integrates live streaming into a YouTube channel page. All they require of selected broadcasters is a webcam or external USB/FireWire camera. Easy peesy, right? A “Live Comments” module sits to the right of the live video stream; this gives viewers and broadcasters the ability to communicate with one another. Remember this is only a two-day trial only for the specified content partners; Google promises to “evaluate rolling out the platform more broadly to our partners worldwide” at an undisclosed date. So don’t think you can broadcast live your own keyboard cat doing his thing for the world to see…yet. Click the links provided above (or scrub through the interactive embedded YouTube TV-mabob) to catch live content before time runs out.
Mark your calenders, people. Halo: Reach will release September 14, 2010. And if you’re an ultimate Halo fan and expecting to get your game on day one, be sure to preorder as soon as possible. Bob McKenzie, senior vice president of merchandising at GameStop: “Pre-orders for ‘Halo: Reach’ have been off the charts, with fans snapping up the limited and legendary editions since they were introduced just a month ago. Overall, it’s a real testament to the passion of the ‘Halo’ fan base.”
The Halo: Reach beta invitational was a huge success for developer Bungie and Microsoft. Over 2.7 million gamers participated in the beta, playing over 13 million games for over 16 million hours. In a fun way to thank Halo fans for taking part in the beta, Bungie compiled a bunch of in-game footage captured by players. The video, embedded above, contains some awesome sticks and impressive kills..so check it out.
Halo fans, check out this tutorial of sorts. Actress Aisha Tyler breaks down game types, the new maps and environments, weapons, and more. It’s an informative and helpful video; the only downside is the crazy amount of awkward mentions of the phrase “kick your ass.” Aren’t those oversized prop weapons she handles kick-ass, erm, awesome!? To access the Halo: Reach beta you need a copy of Halo: ODST. Happy fragging.
Rock Band Network beta opens to Xbox 360 users, allows rockstars in training to show off their talent
Harmonix wants to breathe new life into its Rock Band series by allowing gamers to upload their own music to the game for others to play. It’s being positioned as a way for unsigned artists to show off their talent in video game form. All artists have to do is create a MIDI file of their song, record it with quality audio levels, and submit it for a peer review. If a song is selected for the service, the artist will be prompted to pick a price point (ranging from $1 to $3) and then the song will be posted to the network for millions to download and play. However, there is somewhat of a catch. Artists must pay to place their songs on the network and the pricing is pretty steep, ranging from $999 for an entire track to $500 per minute of music. This being said, it is likely that only serious artists will be willing to take the leap into the Network. And if you ask me, this is a good thing; we shouldn’t run into showing-singing tweens. So far many larger bands have expressed deep interest in lending some of their tracks to the service. They include Jonathan Coulton, The Shins, Ministry, Evanescense, The Stills, Creed and All That Remains. Also, SubPop has announced that Nirvana, Sleater-Kinney, Flight of the Conchords, and the Postal Service will share tracks as well. Harmonix stipulates that they will not enable the service “until we accrue a good base of content.” So you think you got what it takes? Head on over to Rock Band’s official site to join the beta and get started!
Facebook lite is basically a stripped down version of it’s more encompassing counterpart. Facebook says, “Facebook Lite is a faster, simpler way to keep in touch with your friends. If you like it, you may choose to use it instead of the regular Facebook.” By simplerthey mean dumbed down. The site is literally a bare-bones version of Facebook that will allow older folks and younger kids (why are they even registered on Facebook, anyway) to join in on the fun that is social networking and such. The site is easier to navigate with larger buttons and less clutter. However, features are missing from the standard Facebook website and it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth doing away with functionality for simplicity. Check it out for yourself at http://lite.facebook.com/.
Finally. (Don’t worry–these services will stay free under Google Standard Edition branding.)