I “attended” (sat at my desk and watched) a webinar yesterday called Innovation @ Google: A Day in the Life. The main speaker was Naveen Viswanatha, a sales engineer for Google Enterprise. His talk was focused on what goes on inside Google’s walls that help the company innovate so consistently. Here are some of my favorites:
As a precursor to the upcoming Geneva auto show, BMW recently announced its ConnectedDrive, an “intelligent network that connects the driver, the vehicle, and their surroundings.” Most notably, the system will deliver the World Wide Web, in all its glory, to the shiny LCDs of new BMWs. Unlike previous iterations, which only provided access to specific sites (like Google Maps), ConnectedDrive provides unrestricted access to the entire internet, allowing users to do everything from online banking to restaurant scouting from the driver’s seat. For safety’s sake, the system will only work when the car is parked. Initially, ConnectedDrive will run on the EDGE network (which can be painfully slow, but it’s more widespread than faster 3G networks).
We like this idea – it shows that BMW is really listening to its customers’ desire to be connected and plugged in. Though, we do wonder: why opt for an in-car system when you can just get an internet-accessible mobile phone? Either way, it’s a nice execution of a service that’s long overdue. Learn more at autoblog.
Parents with small children know this routine well: buy toy, baby plays with toy, baby gets bored with toy, toy sits in a closet collecting dust, toy gets chucked after a few months and ends up in a land fill. It’s estimated that the average American parent spends $750 per year on toys for their children. Baby Plays is a recently launched venture that works like Netflix for toys. Parents simply log on, create a wishlist, and are entitled to 4, 6, or 10 toys each month. Parents can keep any toy for as long as they wish without paying any late fees. Baby Plays even includes prepaid UPS shipping labels to make the shipping process that much smoother. If a child likes a toy so much that a parent wishes to purchase it, they can do so at a 20% discount from the toy’s original purchase price. Read the rest of this entry »
Frequent club-goers know that the world’s greatest hotspots are great not because of décor, drink menus, or exclusivity; but because of the music that pumps through the speakers. Now, anyone with an internet connection can enjoy the work of some of the world’s best DJs live through awdio.com. The site streams live music from participating clubs, restaurants, hotels, and lounges from Paris and New York to Sydney and Tokyo.
The AwdioBlaster Player is integrated into the site with tools to filter programs by style, artist, and agenda. The technological secret behind Awdio is its AwdioBox – 19″ racks that are installed in each venue allowing them to broadcast 2 streams simultaneously up to 192Kbs in real time. The first stream is 100% musical and extracts the sound from the mixing desk. The second stream mixes the ambiance with the music. These boxes are completely autonomous and allow a constant connection between the Awdio servers and all the sources on the network over 5 continents.
Just another example of how the internet and a little ingenuity are completely erasing borders and geographic boundaries. Learn more at Awdio.
MicroPlace, a new micro-financing site backed by eBay, aims to help microfinancing companies around the world grow and thrive. The idea is simple:
“Microfinance institutions around the world have discovered an effective way to help the world’s working poor lift themselves out of poverty. These organizations need capital to expand and reach more of the working poor. At the same time, millions of everyday people here in the United States are looking for ways to make investments that yield a financial return while making a positive impact on the world. MicroPlace simply connects investors with microfinance institutions looking for funds.
The result: more microfinance in the world, satisfied investors, and above all, fewer people living in poverty.”
Brilliant. MicroPlace doesn’t intend to compete with sites like Kiva, it wants to help sites like Kiva flourish by providing one venue through which potential investors can view and select microfinancing opportunities. Sort of like how eBay connects buyers and sellers. We like it. It’s a good thing.
Not to say that YouTube’s immense user-base isn’t intellectual, but the content uploaded to and popularized on YouTube has a decidedly light-weight feel. YouTube is more about entertainment than anything else – you know, viral videos featuring skateboarding bulldogs and South Park spoofs.
A new site, Big Think, aims to serve a different niche on the online video world. From the site:
“Our task is to move the discussion away from talking heads and talking points, and give it back to you. That is Big Think’s mission. In practice, this means that our information is truly interactive. When you log onto our site, you can access hundreds of hours of direct, unfiltered interviews with todays leading thinkers, movers and shakers. You can search them by question or by topic, and, best of all, respond in kind. Upload a video in which you take on Senator Ted Kennedy’s views on immigration; post a slideshow of your trip to China that supports David Dollar’s assertion that pollution in China is a major threat; or answer with plain old fashioned text. You can respond to the interviewee, respond to a responder or heck, throw your own question or idea into the ring.
Big Think is yours. We are what you think.”
The site features video clips of numerous “experts” (Richard Branson, Paul Krugman) responding to specific questions. Most of the videos are interviews, where the interviewer is kept out of the final video itself so that the clip looks more like a commentary than an interview. The site aims to become a discussion forum, where users can post questions, ideas, and responses focused on all things “intellectual” – politics, religion, business, law, healthcare. Log on, and check out some of the clips when you have a minute. Apart from being interesting, the whole idea that the existing clips are meant to spark discussion is really exciting. How might you respond? For more, check out this New York Times article on how Big Think got started.