Google’s annual developer conference, I/O (that’s geek-speak for Input/Output, to all you non-techies) went ahead last week. Whilst we weren’t able to fly the team out to San Francisco and we’ve been hard at work preparing for the upcoming Penguin 2.0 update, we have been keeping a keen eye on what went on at the event. Over the weekend we finally got time to sit down and watch the keynote from the event in it’s entirety ( all 3 hours, 51 minutes and 25 seconds of it!) so here’s our run down of the new tech that the Big G has unleashed…
Google Play Music goes Streaming
In what looks like an attempt to go head-to-head with services like Spotify, Pandora and Grooveshark, Google Play Music will now offer unlimited streaming music for a monthly subscription fee of $9.99. Dubbed “Google Music All Access”, the new service will offer radio-style streams and smart playlists, but whether this is enough to compete with the existing options in this field remains to be seen.
One of the most useful Google services, Google Maps has been given a massive update, including a serious design refinement. The new Maps isn’t just a pretty face though – sporting tighter integration with Google’s social services, more emphasis one Street View and 3D, and the ability for users to submit Android “Photo Spheres” enabling people to actually look around the interior of businesses and public places, this is one of the most significant announcements at this year’s I/O. For those planning on going a bit further afield for their next holiday, Google Maps now includes the astounding ability to explore outer space! Don’t throw out your old A-Z atlas just yet though – the new and improved Maps service is currently invite only. Head over to the this page to request an invite.
Google Wallet and Gmail Integration
Google Wallet has now been tightly integrated with Gmail to allow you to send money as an email attachment, making sending cash from your Wallet easier than ever. On top of this, Google have released an API that allows developers to streamline the process of paying with your Google Wallet from within apps or online. Whilst Google is keen to stress that they are not abandoning the NFC element of Google Wallet, these new additions could really give the service the boost it needs to take off properly!
Google Play Gets Games Services
Google Play will provide games developers with the ability to introduce social features such as effortless multiplayer modes, high scores and achievements into their games – a feature that iOS users have been enjoying for a while now. These social features will all be tightly integrated with Google+, so in order to compete with your friends you must be in each other’s Circles. Google says they will also introduce the ability to play a game on one device, then pick up exactly where you left off on another – perfect for swapping between phone and tablet!
Huge updates to Google+
Google’s very own social network – or “social layer” as they prefer to call it – has been treated to no less than 41 updates, not least of all including a swanky new image-led, Pinterest-inspired interface. Tighter integration with other Google services through Google+ Hangouts mean that now all of the Google messaging services can be accessed from one location, offering a seamless transition between your favourite Google communication tools.
Samsung Galaxy S4 with Stock Android Coming in June
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all from this year’s conference, Google will be shipping a version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 without Samsung’s TouchWiz UI and included apps. Sporting a simpler Android install, this should put the handset in line for early OS updates direct from Google, whilst trimming away the “bloat” in the form of Samsung’s pre-installed software. Unfortunately this variant of the S4 is only scheduled for release in the US at present – hopefully we will see a release on this side of the pond soon!
So that concludes our roundup of the key announcements of this year’s I/O. There’s been a whole host of announcements across the full spectrum of Google’s apps and services, and it looks like it’s going to be another strong year for the Big G. For more information, check out the post on Google’s own blog.
For this week’s Fun for Friday (including even more alliteration in the title than usual!), we are going to take a look at how Facebook (with the assistance of a Pixar artist and a certain Mr Charles Darwin) are planning to change the face of Facebook… quite literally!
For those of you new to the concept of emoticons (which by now is surely not many), they are small pictures used in text based messaging services intended to convey non-verbal communication (e.g. emotions or actions) through text based forms of communication.
Facebook have been experimenting with emoticons for quite a while now, allowing them to be tagged onto status updates and recently also introducing larger-than-life emoticons in the form of “stickers” in the new much talked about “Facebook Home” interface for Android/iOS.
But this time around, Facebook are really trying something new – and enlisting the help of some of the best professionals in the area.
Pixar artist Matt Jones has been lending a hand to Facebook in the development of these new icons.
About the project, Jones (a story illustrator at Pixar and former storyboard artist at the Wallace and Gromit Studios) said:
“Facebook was canny enough to realize that traditional emoticons are quite bland. At Pixar, we consider emotional states every day with every drawing we make. Our work is informed by the years of study we do, constantly studying people’s gestures and expressions in real life.”
Jones also mentioned that they had been experimenting with variation in colour, which seems interesting as the default yellow which seems to be the “norm” for these emoticons has always stuck me as a little odd. However, he mentioned that the typical Facebook blue colour looked a bit strange, so we will have to wait to find out what the final colour scheme Jones comes up with looks like.
The commission of an artist from a company such as Pixar seems a very logical decision – after all, Pixar are renowned for introducing emotion and personality to usually inanimate objects, so who better to inject a sense of real feeling into these sub-100 pixel images – but Facebook’s other ally in their path to emoticon perfection is a little more distant.
Jones’s inspiration stemmed from Darwin’s 1872 book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, which documented the emotional expressions displayed by humans and the similarities they share with those of other animals. Whilst this may seem like a fairly simple task by modern standards, it is important to consider that this work had a significant impact on our understanding of human emotion, and paved the way for psychologists in understanding and communicating with sufferers of autism in the 1970’s.
It’s interesting to see the work of a great scientist of the past come together with the talent of a brilliant modern day animation artist to produce something that will become fairly integral in all of our daily social media lives. So far, Facebook has confirmed 16 icons from the collection by Jones, but with over 50 left in the set, we are likely to be seeing even more of him very soon! 🙂
It’s no secret that our SEO team here at eSterling are gurus with Google (and search engines in general). Whilst we spend most of our time here pushing your websites to the top of Google’s rankings, every now and then, we like to have a little fun with the big G too.
Here’s a few neat little things you can do with Google that you probably didn’t know about:
Twitter is renowned for the light-hearted attitude of it’s 500+M strong userbase, and as we all know, humour can be a brilliant way to win over your customers.
Presenting your company in this jaunty, fun fashion can be challenging, but here’s an example from the local Solihull Police force on how to do it right:
Courtesy of @SolihullPolice
The Solihull Police twitter account is a great example of how you can make a potential grey and serious topic a little more cheery quite easily by just injecting a little fun – We highly recommend giving them a follow!
In other slightly less jolly news, disgruntled staff of failing music and DVD giant HMV took to Twitter in a guerilla-style hijacking of the retailer’s account. The peeved employees managed to broadcast several tweets to HMV’s 68,000+ fans, including:
“We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired. Exciting!! #hmvXFactorFiring”.
The prank didn’t seem to go down too well with those in charge, however, as the renegade tweeter posted:
“Just overheard our Marketing Director (he’s staying, folks) ask “How do I shut down Twitter?”
The higher powers at HMV finally managed to regain control of the account and all of the tweets were removed, but not before the rogue poster managed to squeeze in a final tweet:
“So really, what have we to lose? It’s been a pleasure folks! Best wishes to you all!”
Nearly 190 jobs were axed at HMV yesterday, as the company begins the step toward restructuring. All is not lost, however – restructuring company Hilco have bought the company’s debt, in hopes of reopening half the chain’s stores across the nation. Something makes us think they might not be offering the Twitter troublemakers their jobs back though!
As Jubilee-fever sweeps the nation are you doing your bit to make sure you capitalise on it this summer? Retail outlets are FULL of Union Jacks and little crown-shaped trinkets. There is a resurgence in teapot sales and macaroons are EVERYWHERE!
Whether or not you plan to wave a little flag of your own, there is definitely money to be made on the back of the Jubilee and for savvy business owners the opportunity is too good to miss. Here are our top tips:
- Run a Jubilee-inspired competition on your web site and spread the word using your Social Media links such as Twitter and Facebook.
- Turn your usual seasonal special offers into Jubilee special offers, decorating your site with red, white and blue to jolly it up.
- Give out Jubilee voucher codes at checkout to existing customers encouraging a return visit by offering a discount.
- If you’re in the market, stock a specific Jubilee range to entice buyers. Create packages or sell items on an individual basis.
- Get involved in community activities. Offer to sponsor a tea party in your local area and get the press involved.
However you choose to spend the Jubilee, don’t miss out on a chance to increase your sales opportunities. Boost British Business! Hoorah!
Now that Facebook timeline is in full swing after becoming a default setting, some budding designers have started using the new layout to promote their brand in the most creative ways possible. A new trend has emerged for designing customised timeline images that really stand out from the crowd and capture the attention of the person stopping by at your profile.
Timeline has a lot of potential when it comes to promoting your brand, as you can use the large banner at the top to place a large image of a product – or customise a graphic with your contact details or company information.
Take for instance Jessica Barnard’s profile below. She has customised her personal profile to promote her brand and uses the banner to showcase her style of work. Very quickly, we learn that Jessica is a ‘web designer & self-professed technology addict’ with a sense of humour, who leans towards a vintage or retro style. She’s even had time to promote her Twitter and Pinterest pages.
A banner like Jessica’s can be put together fairly simply using Photoshop or Illustrator. All you need is a little imagination and a clear idea of what your brand is about. Or you can let eSterling do the hard work for you and talk to us about a customised Facebook timeline graphic.
Here’s a run down of some of my other favourite Facebook timeline graphics:
1. Robert Falken:
2. Neils Langeveld
3. Tiffany and Co.
This year we’re bringing you a little light relief on the eSterling blog with Fun for Friday. There are so many weird things on the internet; we thought we might as well share them with you all.
Today’s Fun for Friday is good clean fun – the Facebook shower curtain. If you’re someone who checks Twitter on the toilet, this social media bathroom accessory is just the thing you’ve been looking for. All you need to do is put your face in the transparent ‘profile picture’ window and set your status to ‘I’m in the shower. LOL’.
The social shower curtain is available to pre-order from website www.spinninghat.com.