Google's Vision of "Augmented Humanity," StumbleUpon, Path, the iPad 2, & More Xconomy News

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Google's Vision of "Augmented Humanity," StumbleUpon, Path, the iPad 2, & More Xconomy News Wade Roush 1/9/11 1:11 PM
It's amazing how time accelerates around the end of the year. I didn't mean to let eight weeks go after my last Google Groups update, but there you have it. 

My biggest recent project was a three-part series, published last week, about Google's vision for an "Age of Augmented Humanity" when our mobile devices will find what we're looking for even before we know we want it. The series focused on three disciplines -- speech recognition (Part 1), machine translation (Part 2), and computer vision (Part 3) -- where Google innovations are making smartphones far smarter and, once again, changing the way we access the world's information.

Some of my key stories from the end of the year:

* I talked with AngelPad co-founder Thomas Korte about the philosophy beyind the new San Francisco-based venture incubator.

* I had a chance to ask ex-Facebooker Dave Morin about the guiding ideas behind the Path mobile photo-sharing app.

* A huge crowd turned out for my November 30 on-stage chat with Sequoia Capital's Michael Moritz. We plan to publish a video from the event at San Francisco's KickLabs soon, but this November 17 pre-interview with Moritz hit on several of the points that came up during the event, including the new array of funding choices facing early-stage startups.

* I profiled an interesting San Francisco startup called Stipple that's making it easier for publishers to annotate and monetize images on the Web.

* My November 19 column compared Apple TV and the Roku Player as options for people contemplating cutting their cable TV subscriptions. I've been cable-free since March 2009 and haven't missed it a bit. 

* Without many people realizing it, StumbleUpon has emerged as the Web's second largest source of social media traffic, after Facebook. I talked with founder and CEO Garrett Camp about the company's fascinating odyssey from tiny Canada-based startup to eBay subsidiary and back to independence. 

* Sunnyvale, CA-based Ruckus Wireless has developed beam-forming antennas that extend the range and reliability of Wi-Fi signals, and I talked with CEO Selina Lo and other executives about the startup's plans to help big wireless operators offload 3G and 4G traffic to local Wi-Fi networks.

* I took a long look at Blinkx, a seven-year-old video search company that took the unusual route of going public on the London Stock Exchange.

* To assist holiday shoppers, I published a gadget gift guide and a list of iPad apps that would make great virtual stocking stuffers for people receiving iPads as holiday presents.

* It turns out Facebook is a terrible place to find a date. I wrote a story about Triangulate, a Silicon Valley startup that recently shut down its Facebook dating network, called Wings, and reinvented the service as a website called DateBuzz. 

* I shared my take on Google's December 7 event previewing its plans for Chrome OS-powered notebook computers. Google sent me (and everyone else who attended the event) a Cr-48 Chrome OS laptop, and I intend to write up some of my impressions of the device soon.

* O'Reilly Media's News Foo meeting in Phoenix, December 3-4, was one of the most stimulating conferences I've been to in years. In many ways, I came away more optimistic about the future of journalism.

* I had the opportunity to visit Tibion, a company marketing a "bionic leg" -- actually, a battery-powered robotic exoskeleton -- designed to help patients recover movement control after a stroke. I even tried the leg myself, as the video accompanying the piece illustrates.

* On December 14 Xconomy San Francisco turned six months old, and to mark the occasion I published a list of our top 10 infotech and life sciences stories since June 14, 2010.

* I wrote about TechShop's expansion to San Francisco and posted a long podcast interview with founder Jim Newton and CEO Mark Hatch (see page 4). The Menlo Park, CA-based company offers access to a jaw-dropping array of industrial tools and shop equipment on the health-club model ($100 a month). Some cool companies like Dodocase have come out of TechShop, and I expect that the San Francisco location will become the seat of a minor entrepreneurial renaissance.

* In a column inspired by Devin Friedman's excellent GQ article "The Viral Me" (which I urge you to read), I argued that tech startups in the New England area encounter too much friction when it comes to funding and cultural acceptance, and that startups in Silicon Valley don't encounter enough.

* I profiled SunRun, a San Francisco company helping to spread residential solar power to consumers in seven states. It seemed to me that SunRun's financial and business-model innovation have been as important to its prospects as it software innovation.

* A San Francisco startup called Streetline launched its parking-spot-finder app for the iPhone in Hollywood. I got the background on the company from CEO Zia Yusuf.

* I had a long sit-down with Marvell CEO Sehat Sutardja, and published a quick piece about his views on Microsoft's move to release a version of Windows that runs on ARM processors (he isn't impressed). We'll publish the entire interview with Sutardja soon.

* And in my first column of the new year, I offered a list of six features Apple should build into the iPad 2, beyond the easily predictable ones like cameras.

Whew! My aim is to send out these updates a little more frequently from now on, so they won't be nearly as lengthy. Best wishes for 2011, and stay in touch!