Planet GOOG

Weird Google Text-to-Speech Bug Randomly Blurts Out the Phrase ‘And Now He Praises the iPad’

(Screencap: Google Translate)

Google’s text-to-speech engine is arguably one of the most powerful in the world. It almost always perfectly captures our speech, making it far easier to speak our text messages than risk an embarrassing autocorrect faux pas.

We rarely have complaints about Google’s text-to-speech technology, but there is this one really weird bug within the engine: When you open Google Now, click on the microphone to activate text-to-speech and ask the question, “What is a giraffe?” the phone becomes kiiind of possessed. While reading back the definition of a giraffe to you, Google Now randomly inserts the phrase, “And now he praises the iPad.” Pretty awkward given that Google’s currently dueling in the tablet market with iPad’s own creator. Read More

startup rundown

Startup News: Two Regular New Yorkers Disrupt Christmas and Alexis Ohanian Just Wants to Park His Car

"Leave me alone." (Photo: Twitter)

r/findmeaparkingspace ParkWhiz, the Chicago company that enables users to find and reserve guaranteed parking spaces before reaching their destination, today announced that it has closed a $2 million Series A round of funding led by Hyde Park Venture Partners. Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian also took place in the round along with Hyde Park Angels, Amicus Capital, and others. In a press release sent to Betabeat, the company said that since its launch in 2006, it has driven $10 million in parking revenue to parking operators and provided access to 3 million parking spaces nationwide.

Fab Goes To India Jason Goldberg, the founder and CEO of Fab, took to his personal blog yesterday to announce that his company had acquired new funding. Times Internet, the digital arm of The Times of India Group, India’s largest media company, has chosen to invest in the company. Mr. Goldberg notes in the post, “As part of this investment Fab will be working with Times Internet to explore and execute on our India market strategy in the coming years.” Since launching in June 2011, Fab has raised over $150 million from investors. Read More

Dumb Smartphones

Blackberries Now So Embarrassing People are Hiding Them Under iPads

(Photo: AFR)

If you’re not Beyonce and you’re still carrying around a Blackberry, chances are you are over 55, wear a three piece suit to work or–like a family itself–you are desperately beholden to a family plan from which there is no escape.

Where once we touted Blackberry Curves like prized possessions, obsessively BBMing friends and humblebragging about the jitters induced by that phantom blinking red light, we now cluck our tongues in derision at the behind-the-times fogies who dare to wield a device that isn’t an iPhone or Android. Read More

The Machines

Google Wants to Insert Itself into as Many of Your Conversations as Possible

Mobile devices: For so much more than Instagramming your dinner. (Photo: flickr.com/sixteenmilesofstring)

We’ve all done it: An argument breaks out at the bar/dinner table/book club meeting, about a half-remembered line of poetry or factoid about the American Revolution. What was Mick Jagger’s childhood nickname? Only Google can tell you for sure. So someone hauls out a smartphone and lickety-split, the matter is settled. Back to brunch! 

Well, the matter isn’t settled as far as Google is concerned, reports The New York Times. Rather than being a mere 30-second in-case-of-emergency argument ender, the company wants its search products integrated ever-deeper into your socializing, like that one dude who doesn’t know when to stop dropping Trivial Pursuit factoids at the cocktail party.

According to the Times: Read More

Malware Mischief

Researchers Develop ‘Visual Malware’ for Android

unhappy android

Via Gizmodo we have learned of PlaceRaider, the scariest damn Android malware you never want hiding on your cuddly old pal, the full-featured smartphone.

Researchers at the US Naval Surface Warfare Center created PlaceRaider and have dubbed it “visual malware.” It was developed as a proof of concept but would also be a great idea to sell to producers seeking spy gadget ideas for the next James Bond film, because PlaceRaider hints at the future of covert surveillance: Read More

Hack Hack Hack Hack It Apart

Demo Shows How Easily Your iPhone 4S and Android Phone Can Be Hacked

Hope you don't get cancer, CEO guy. (flickr.com/perspective)

Attendees at the EuSecWest-sponsored World Security Professional Summit in Amsterdam are participating in a contest called Mobile Pwn2Own. Contestants are, yes, basically revealing that our mobile devices can be easily pwned by someone with the know-how. Quell your bubbling phone fanboy or fangirl rage right now: it looks like both Androids and iPhones are vulnerable. The Next Web describes the Android pwnage, which was partially done, by the way, via near-field communication, or NFC: Read More

Linkages

Booting Up: Bezos Is Right Behind You Edition

MWAHAHA! (Photo: flickr.com/oreilly)

Amazon is carpeting the country with distribution centers, thereby creeping ever-closer to next-day delivery and the possibility of sealing its complete dominance over all retail. Hail, Bezos! [New York Times]

Sorry, Jeff, but Walt Mossberg says he can’t quite sign off on the claim that the Kindle Fire HD is “the best tablet at any price.” [AllThingsD]

For those keeping score at home, there are now 500 million Android devices. [Fast Company]

Tesla plans to build an SUV. In the future, even the mildest-mannered, most ozone-conscious environmentalist will be able to his own modest tank. [Wired]

Microsoft has an uphill battle if they want to make “Bing it” happen. Why? Because it sounds lame. [Fast Company]

Linkages

Booting Up: Eating Your Own Dogfood Edition

Good morning, sunshine! (Photo: flickr.com/globochem

App.net would like feedback on its terms of service. [The Next Web]

Facebook employees are reportedly strongly encouraged to use Android phones, so they’ll take the terribleness of Facebook’s Android app seriously. [Business Insider]

Microsoft has a new, wildly unimpressive logo. [ZDNet]

Tumblr just blew past Myspace. [Marketing Land]

Today’s Kickstarter conversation starter: Full Metal Jacket iPad app. [Wired]

Check-In Please!

Everyone Stop Complaining, Foursquare Update Finally Brings Back the ‘Nearby Friends’ Feature

(Photo: Foursquare)

While Betabeat really liked the Foursquare redesign, there was apparently one feature left on the chopping block that had users in an uproar. The “Nearby Friends” feature, which allows users to see what friends in their general vicinity are doing, was knocked out of the redesign, but today benign overlords of Foursquare announced that they’ve brought it back. Read More