About Frederic Lardinois
German-born, Frederic Lardinois writes about Web technology for ReadWriteWeb and has been covering Web 2.0 technologies and social media for several years. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon.
Latest Posts by Frederic Lardinois
If you’re anything like me, chances are you try to avoid checking baggage at all costs when you fly. Between long lines at the check-in counter and extra fees, it’s generally not worth the hassle if you can manage to get all your necessities into a carry-on. In case you do have to check a suitcase, though, Delta now offers you more peace of mind thanks to its new baggage-tracking service.
The new service, which Delta isn’t currently advertising on its site, allows you to type in your bag tag number and see exactly where you suitcase is. Just like when you’re tracking FedEx or UPS packages, Delta’s new service will tell you when and where your suitcases were last scanned. Give that Delta allows you free WiFi access to its own site during WiFi-equipped flights, you can even ensure that all your belongings are on the same plane as you when that moment of doubt hits you somewhere over Kansas.
Groupon today launched the newest addition to its group buying site: Groupon Getaways – a travel-focused deals site that’s powered by Expedia. There are, of course, already a number of similar sites on the market, with LivingSocial Escapes being one of the market leaders.
Thanks to its partnership with Expedia, though, Groupon will be in an extremely advantageous position to rival all of the other sites that took the basic Groupon model and applied it to travel before Groupon itself got a chance to do so.
Take this recent LivingSocial Escapes deal for a hotel in Mexico, for example. It’s a good deal and I’m sure LivingSocial will make some money off it, but given that nobody is going to drive to Cabo San Lucas, LivingSocial won’t make a dime of the travel arrangements that its users make to actually make use of this deal. Groupon and Expedia, on the other hand, can offer users a full-service travel service that doesn’t just include the deal, but also transportation to the location and tickets for local events and sights. Besides the money Groupon makes on selling these deals then, it could also get affiliate fees for when its users book their flights, for example.
We already love Hipmunk for its flight search, which allows you to organize trips according to how aggravating they will likely be (red-eye with three stops or a non-stop during the day for the same price?). Now, you can also use Hipmunk to find the perfect hotel for your next leisure or business trip.
Thanks to a smart integration with third-party data, you can not just find the best deal, but the map-centric interface also tells you whether your hotel is in an area with lots of restaurants or nightlife – or if there is a lot of crime in a certain neighborhood.
This new interface takes a lot of guesswork out of the hotel booking experience and we can only hope that its competitors will soon offer similar features as well.
When it comes to in-flight entertainment these days, quite a few airlines give their passengers the option to watch live TV on domestic flights and on-demand videos and a few games on international trips. Even the most advanced systems on the market today, though, only scratch the surface of what these systems could do if you coupled them with an Internet connection, touchscreen and a decent operating system. Panasonic today announced just such a system. The new eX3 in-flight entertainment system is based on Google’s Android operating system, offers a highly customizable touchscreen interface and offers an Internet connection as well as the ability for airlines to develop their own apps on top of it. Whether this system will ever take flight, of course, remains to be seen.
Panasonic envisions that airlines could offer their customers a personalized experience on this system that would allow them to set their own preferences (weather, news sources, Twitter feeds, Facebook etc.) once and then get the same experience every time they get on one of the airlines’ planes. The company’s executive director of corporate sales product management Neil James likens the new system to a “home theater environment” that – unlike most of the in-flight entertainment systems on the market today – is focused on aesthetics and connectivity.
According to Panasonic, the turnaround from creating an in-flight entertainment package today (movies, TV shows etc.) has generally been around 45 days. With an Internet-connected system, that turnaround time will be close to zero and allow for a far more interesting in-flight entertainment experience than today’s rather stale systems.
Of course, given the state of the airline industry in the U.S., I don’t expect we will see these systems on domestic flights anytime soon (and when we do, we’ll likely have to swipe a credit card to actually use it). After all, just having WiFi access on a plane is sadly still a luxury on too many airlines today…
In December, I visited Parrot’s development labs in Paris to check out the company’s newest project. While Parrot is mostly known for its Bluetooth headsets and speaker systems, the company’s newest project combines augmented reality with a remote-controlled helicopter. This helicopter – the AR.Drone – features four rotors that keep it stable and a front-mounted camera that is linked to an iPhone or iPod touch. The rig is controlled via an iPhone or iPod touch and the device’s screen can show an augmented view of what the helicopter’s camera sees. [Video and details...]
AR Meets the Real World
What’s most exciting about this product is how it combines a real helicopter with this augmented reality view. Instead of just looking at an augmented view of the world through the phone’s camera, you get to see the world through the drone’s camera. The iPhone takes the view of the camera (via Wi-Fi) and replaces markers with anything from walls to dinosaurs.
During our discussion with Parrot in December, we couldn’t get any information about the price of the AR.Drone out of the company’s representatives. Given how sophisticated the hardware is, however, chances are that it won’t be very cheap. The drone, for example, features two cameras. Besides the camera that feeds the video to the iPhone, the drone also features a second camera that is mounted underneath the structure and augments the drone’s autopilot.
Hands-On With the AR.Drone
We got a chance to play with a prototype of the AR.Drone in Parrot’s labs, and it took a while to get used to the controls (the app uses a combination of the phone’s tilt sensors and on-screen controls to manipulate the drone). The video on the iPhone was surprisingly clear and didn’t show any noticeable lag. Sadly, we didn’t get a chance to try out the AR features of the app, though.
Parrot will launch the AR.Drone later this year. The company plans to demo the helicopter at CES this week but the exact date of the public launch remains unclear.
A Drone for Developers
In its current iteration, the hardware and software is clearly laid out for gaming, but Parrot also released an SDK that will allow developers to use the hardware for other purposes as well. It will definitely be interesting to see what games and other tools the developer community will come up with once the AR.Drone is launched. Parrot told us that it hopes that developers will look at the hardware as a platform, and the company hopes to create an active developer ecosystem around the AR.Drone.
Click here for more videos of the AR.Drone in action.
Disclosure: Frederic met with Parrot during a trip that was partly sponsored by Parrot.
An Early Demo
|(From an original article by Frederic Lardinois)|
Starting today, the popular light blogging platform Tumblr will publish its users’ feeds in real time. Tumblr will use the increasingly popular PubSubHubbub format to announce updates. Tumblr’s real-time hub will be powered by Superfeedr. Thanks to today’s updates, Tumblr – which has close to 2.5 million users – will now be able to send out real-time alerts to any service that supports the PubSubHubbub format.
Getting Real-Time Updates
Getting real-time updates from PubSubHubbub-enabled feeds is still not as easy as it should be, but an increasing number of services are now able to consume these feeds. With standard RSS feeds, a client has to poll the feed at regular intervals (usually around once every 15 minutes). A PubSubHubbub enabled client, however, will receive a ping immediately after a post has been published.
Among these are Mihai Parparita’s PuSh Bot, which uses XMPP to send updates to IM clients, or the Notifications iPhone app (iTunes link), which uses a web-based back-end to manage subscriptions. FriendFeed and Lazyfeed can consume PubSubHubbub feeds, too. Netvibes turned on support for PubSubHubbub yesterday when the company launched Wasabi, the public beta of the next generation of its service.
|(From an original article by Frederic Lardinois)|
In an interview with TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington at LeWeb today, Google’s Marissa Mayer discussed some of the new product that Google announced over the last year, including the recent integration of real-time news streams into the default search pages, Google Music Search and Google Wave. Talking about the future of search, Mayer expects that people will soon do searches by talking to their phones, or through services like the newly announced Google Goggles.
Going Beyond Text
While Mayer expects the search market to continue to grow, she also thinks that a lot of additional growth can come from introducing new ways of searching the web. Translation and personalization are also a major issue for Google.
Asked about SearchWiki – which Arrington considers a failure – Mayer said that Google wants to morph the user experience a bit, but didn’t go into any details.
Regarding the Google Goggles and Google’s current dependency on text to power its search, Mayer noted that the application looks at more than just location data and image recognition algorithms. Speech recognition, however, is still easier to do for Google than image recognition.
Talking about mobile searches, Mayer said that the number of mobile searches doubled last year. Mobile searches make up slightly more than 5% of all of the search queries that Google processes.
Chrome and the ChromeOS
With regards to Chrome, Mayer noted that Google wants to focus on the user experience with features like the new tab page. She described the ChromeOS as an anti-operating system. In total, Google sees “tens of millions of Chrome users,” though characteristically, Mayer did not go into any details.
Google and the News Media
Google wants to increase users’ engagement with news. According to Mayer, if we were to reinvent the news today, it would look very different from what we know today. She cited Google Living Stories as an experiment that tries to reinvent the news for the 21st century.
Currently, readers tend to come to articles from Google and only read one article. To increase engagement, Mayer wants to create more personalized services. In addition, she also thinks that newspapers can do a better job at keeping users on their sites. Why, for example, do most sites not offer links to related articles?
The Future of News
Mayer’s vision of the future of news is a personalized stream of news that is portable. The personalization would take into account stories that your friends read, location and a knowledge of the topics a user is interested in. Asked about Rupert Murdoch, Mayer noted that Google partnered with MySpace to aggregate real-time status updates from MySpace users. She hopes that Murdoch will not pull all of his content out of Google.
Surprisingly, Mayer didn’t completely deny that Google would be willing to pay publishers for their content.
Mayer said that she was happy with Google Music as a start, especially because it includes song lyrics. Mayer sidestepped any discussion about the future of Google’s Music search feature.
Google and Social Networks
Asked about Google Social Search, Mayer noted that search can help social networks by helping users to find experts in their circle of friends. Mayer noted that users are more likely to trust their friends when it comes to certain queries (snow conditions, for example). The perfect search engine would also be able to crawl private updates that a user is credentialed to see.
Mayer also noted that Google might be able to help to create an authority ranking system for real-time updates from services like Twitter and Facebook.
Arrington asked Mayer if users need to be trained better to understand Wave or if Google plans to tweak the experience. Permanent URLs are one of the features that Google plans to add. The fact that Google Wave doesn’t have critical mass yet is also hindering the experience. Some teams at Google are currently using Wave for their internal communication. Mayer did not make any announcement regarding the future of Wave.
|(From an original article by Frederic Lardinois)|
My6sense just announced a new version of its iPhone application that can automatically highlight the most relevant tweets from the users you follow. The mytweetsense feature learns from the user’s implicit and explicit actions and builds a model of what is interesting to the individual user. Mytweetsense works best for tweets that include links. The app’s features are clearly geared towards these kind of tweets and include previews for links, videos and images.
The default view in the app displays all the recent tweets you received according to relevancy. You can also switch to a chronological view of your timeline and the app allows users to easily reshare content on Twitter, Facebook and Friendfeed, as well as by email.
Finding Relevant Tweets
The app trains itself. My6sense just watches what links you click on, and which articles you retweet or share on other social networks. It takes a little bit of training, but if our experience with the my6sense RSS reader is any indication, the results are surprisingly good.
We got a chance to talk to Barak Hachamov, the company’s founder and CEO at LeWeb earlier today. According to Hachamov, my6sense creates an extremely detailed personal profile of every user. It’s important to note that mytweetsense mostly looks at the content of the links that you receive in your Twitter stream. While the app has an option to turn on the relevancy algorithm for tweets without links, the service works best when it can work with the additional information that is implicit in these links.
Twitter lists and smarter real-time search engines have made it easier to keep up with the constant stream of updates on Twitter, but this is still a random stream of information. My6sense’s iPhone app may not replace your favorite Twitter app right now, but it’s a great tool to catch up on your tweets if you have been offline for a few days. You do, however, have to use it for a few days before so you can get the best experience. The app first has to get to know you, after all.
|(From an original article by Frederic Lardinois)|