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The Future According to Google COM alum helps pioneer virtual reality technology for a world giant

Nooka Jones, team lead at Google Creative Lab, with the virtual reality viewer Google Cardboard at Google New York. Photos by Chris Sorensen

On a weekend in November 2024, more than one million New York Times print subscribers received something extra with their paper: a small, flattened cardboard box.

The box was Google Cardboard, a $20 viewer that brings immersive virtual reality (VR) to Android and iPhone users. Folded according to directions, fitted with the provided plastic lenses, and attached to a smartphone screen, Cardboard allowed subscribers to watch The Displaced, the newspaper’s VR film about refugees, the first in a series of VR films from the Times and the VR film company Vrse. Cardboard offers a 3-D, 360-degree viewing experience. Viewers feel as though they are inches away from the refugees in the video—bicycling through a war-ravaged Ukrainian village, gliding in a small boat through the swamps of South Sudan, and traveling in the bed of a truck to a settlement in Lebanon. In one scene, watchers appear to be standing in a crowd of Sudanese refugees in a field. An engine roars. Looking up, they see a plane pass overhead. Bags of food aid fall like rain, and refugees rush to retrieve them.

While giving Times readers an intimate look at the news, Cardboard also offered a glimpse into the future of VR—an industry forecasted to reach a value of $70 billion by 2023.

Google wants to play a leading role in VR through technologies such as Cardboard, which was released in 2014. And it’s part of Nooka Jones’ job to figure out how to make that happen. Jones (COM’10) is marketing manager and team lead at Google Creative Lab, a think tank in the company’s marketing division. His job includes coming up with ideas and names for new products, conducting marketing exercises to inspire engineers’ development of Google technologies, and identifying emerging industries for the company to work in.

Jones’ latest project is Jump, a three-part technology representing a big step forward in VR filmmaking. The first part is a rig, about 11.6 inches in diameter, of 16 cameras arranged in a circle that enables users to shoot VR video. Jump also includes software that puts the footage together in high resolution, and a player for viewing (YouTube currently hosts the videos). Part of the reason there hasn’t been much VR content for consumers until now is that filmmakers have had to cobble together their own VR rigs. Jump is expected to make VR filmmaking easier and more widespread. Jones says his team’s involvement in Jump touches on areas such as branding and communication, product design and user experience. They created the “bumper”—the brand tag (like the MGM lion, he says) that precedes every Jump film—and helped come up with the name Jump.

Marketing products that don’t yet exist

The Creative Lab, based primarily in New York City, is critical to the success of what Forbes ranked in 2024 as the third most valuable brand in the world, behind only Apple and Microsoft. “We’re marketers and storytellers and filmmakers and user-experience designers,” says Jones of the lab staff, “and we use all that knowledge to shape the way a product should be talked about.”

In other words, it is essentially a marketing firm and a research and development lab rolled into one. Some of its work falls under typical branding and marketing, such as making Google TV spots and contributing to the latest company logo change. But the lab also works with designers and engineers to help create and shape new offerings, examining questions like, Where is the connected home going? What will be the future of our phones? What will the future be like if we have driverless cars? Frequently, says Jones, Google engineers ask his team for help presenting a new technology to the public. “They’ll say, ‘If you had this technology, what would you do with it? How would you showcase its potential to the world?’” says Jones. “That’s something I’ve been lucky to have been able to do in the context of both Cardboard and Jump.”

When Google Glass was in the works, engineers asked the Creative Lab for ideas on how the wearable technology might be used. The lab created an ad as if Glass were already on the market and released it to the public, showing how a person could use the product in everyday life. And shortly after Jones arrived at Google in 2013, his team made an internal vision video “full of different product ideas and principles on how you could think about computers reimagined for kids. It really blew the lid off a lot of things here,” he says. The lab later helped design some of the as-yet-undisclosed products.

All this work is part of what he calls “internal motivation” for the company—helping Google recognize and achieve the long-term potential of its products. “You have this great thing,” he’ll say to colleagues who ask his team for feedback on what they’re creating. “Here’s what it can be in two to three years. Here’s your North Star to guide you towards that.”

His work isn’t just visionary; he’s also something of a project manager for initiatives such as VR and kid-friendly products. He calls it “the business smarts” of a project. That includes determining what work his team does (and how quickly), how to pitch to stakeholders and get funding, and how a project connects to other Google initiatives. “I like to sit in with a lot of the designers and creative folks and actually think through what we’re making,” says Jones, who was previously a producer and product strategist at the digital agency Big Spaceship. “If you know what you’re making better, you’re able to position it better for the people who need to be involved or who are going to provide you money or give you the go-ahead to launch.”

Grasping a product’s design—and even helping to shape it—also helps him determine a product’s value and how to convey it to the public. “I think about the way the product feels, and what that makes you think about the product and the company at large,” he says. “Google Photos is a great example of this. At its simplest, it’s a never-ending storage box for all your life’s memories. When you communicate the product value that way, it’s so easy to understand what the benefit is, why I would need it, and the change it will bring to my life by using it.”

Virtual reality takeoff

Google has a reputation for becoming an indispensable part of consumers’ lives; its search engine and online mapping service are the most popular in the world. Jones needs to figure out how to make Google a star player in VR, too. The market is already getting crowded with products targeting a broad array of fields. At the top end of the market, VR viewers, gloves, and other implements help surgeons train for operations and immerse gamers in fantasy worlds. At the budget end, VR mobile apps that work with Cardboard allow users to fight the Dark Side in Star Wars, tour the solar system through Titans of Space, or take 360-degree VR photos. And Cardboard is helping news outlets tell stories in a new way. In addition to the Times, outlets such as ABC, Vice, and the Associated Press have released virtual reality stories.

Figuring out Google’s role in the burgeoning industry requires Jones to test the latest gadgets and think about what the general user is looking for. He asks himself, “What would I want? What’s the thing that my mom would want? What’s the thing that my brothers could get excited about? That’s where I always start my thinking.”

In addition to relying on instinct when brainstorming for Google, Jones and his team conduct surveys and user testing to get answers to questions like, How does this technology benefit someone’s life? How does it bring them joy? If they use it, how do they talk about it to their friends, their family?

“Grounding yourself in laymen’s thinking helps get you out of the tech bubble,” Jones says, and “helps engineers think about products more the way consumers do.” Often that means doing branding or marketing exercises to help guide engineers, as with the prerelease ad for Google Glass: “Not creating a full campaign,” he says, “but giving a sneak peek of what a product might look like, how we might talk about it, and how we might release it to the world.”

Julie Butters can be reached at [email protected].

A version of this article appeared in the spring 2024 edition of COMtalk.

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Building The Future Of Education: The Biggest Trends For The Future Decade

Modern student learning is constantly changing dramatically. The process of change itself is aimed at obtaining high-quality knowledge by students. It is done so that they help in the future to fulfill labor duties. Businesses and organizations require competent employees. The world needs people who can make the right decisions.

The education system now concerns almost every person. Lifelong learning is becoming more and more popular in today’s world. Many processes are now being automated. As a result, the demand for technical specialties is growing. People need new skills, in particular, to meet the requirements.

Changes That are Already Building The Future of Education

The future of education is constantly being transformed by innovation. People are increasingly beginning to use technology every year in all learning processes. All this will be used to ensure that students can learn faster. People are actively trying to integrate technology into all areas of life and have already introduced online learning into students’ lives.

Despite the rapid evolution of instruction with an attempt to integrate new technologies, routine tasks have not disappeared anywhere. And very often, a student is asked to write an essay on human rights. It is not a problem in the modern world, and you can turn to specialists who will help. You can find more human rights essays and ask for help. Also, by reading samples of essays, every student can develop writing skills and learn new information about human rights.

Changes in Education in The Next Decade

The rapid development of technology in the next decade will completely reformat the study system. There will be mass online learning where you do not need to be present in the audience. It is enough to have a gadget and access to the World Wide Web. In this regard, there will be no need for human teachers. Works that will follow a given system will come to replace them.

Scientists also talk about an individual education system. It is challenging for teachers to give equal attention to each student. After all, everyone is entirely different, and this is physically impossible. Therefore, researchers suggest using computer technology during classes. It will allow the building of an education system individually for each student.

What is The Importance of Education in The Future?

What are The Latest Trends in Education?

Since the role in human life and society is always increasing. At the moment, the main trends and vectors to look to the future are changing. The main trends and directions of development of modern education include the following:

globalization

fundamentalization

humanization

technologization

standardization

computerization

The world is changing, and learning must change with it. The paper routine is leaving colleges, giving way to electronic means of working with data. Universities have realized that technology can improve the learning process.

The Duration of Training is Growing, and Education is Becoming More Humane

Knowledge becomes more complex, and the requirements for professional skills are higher. All this increases the overall duration of the study. Today the focus is not on the curriculum. The personality of the students themselves plays an important role. The student builds training by taking into account his interests and requests.

Increasing The Humanities Disciplines and Acquiring an International Character

In modern society, social skills are becoming more important. Therefore, the role of humanitarian areas is growing. The educational systems of different countries are looking for common ground. They develop uniform models and student exchange programs. It once again proves the high role of education in the life of society.

Education Becomes Technological

Every school already has computer labs. Many Universities offer full-distance learning. Adaptive education is being introduced. The development of technological progress actively influences understanding. Thanks to modern technology, the learning process has become easier and faster.

The Contribution of Education to The Growth and Development of Society

Conclusion

Education does not stand still and is constantly evolving. Learning will change in the future. Its social role in society will increase. Thanks to modern technology, people are moving to a new learning format. Most of the learning processes are already automated. Humanity is constantly evolving and adapting to current standards of learning.

Cloud Data Warehouse – The Road To The Future

The need to interpret the vast data is growing unprecedently in the world. With digitization taking over industries, more and more organizations are generating digital data like never before. The growing data is not only a huge asset but also presenting immense opportunities for the industries. To derive interpretations and insights from the data means going a rigorous process of collecting, transforming, loading, and finally

Bidding Goodbye to Traditional Processes

When it comes to managing data, most businesses were using the same traditional on-site infrastructure a few years back. While this worked a few years ago due to a variety of reasons, the winds of change have taken over. Enterprises looking for smarter solutions, because their data was increasing and so were the data management costs. This led to huge turbulence in the traditional data management system, which was mainly on-site. Since the on-site data warehouse was not only difficult to manage but also had more than a few issues, enterprises found their solution in the cloud. Ad as we know today, a cloud data warehouse is excessively popular among enterprises and helping them make sense of all the data. They help businesses streamline their operations and gain visibility to all departments running within. Moreover, cloud data warehouses help enterprises serve their customers and create further opportunities in the market. As businesses come up with new plans and products, data warehouses begin to play even a more important role in the process. They are becoming the new norm. Gone are the days when an enterprise had to purchase hardware, create server rooms along with hire, train, and maintain a dedicated team of staff to run it. Today, the tables have turned and everything is being managed on the cloud. But, to precisely understand why cloud data warehouses outperform traditional systems we need to dive down into their differences.  

Cloud Data Warehouses Becoming the New Norm

Today’s businesses are moving faster than ever. In other words, they are racing out too far more customers and accomplishing a lot more things. Data has become a part of their core processes. For example, banks are processing the credit and debit cards of customers at every second. Similarly, insurance companies are maintaining their customer profiles and updating them frequently with policy-related information and changes. On the other hand, we have brick and mortar stores, process in-store purchases while the online stores process the purchases made digitally. The idea behind this is that all these stores process information that is transactional in nature. They have to be written and updated frequently. Right now businesses have an online transaction processing database to take care of these. This is just one side of the coin. The other side means managing revenue, business operations, customer engagements, and many other things, that are potentially based on the transactional data. Moreover, this data is only growing and businesses need a solution for their optimization. The problem is, however, that online transaction processing systems are designed for managing and processing one small transaction at a time. When it comes to tons of data they fail to deliver the required results. This is where the solution of data warehouses emerges. They already can perform processing on large amounts of data. As a link to the traditional transactional database, they will hold a copy of it and store it safely in the cloud. Moreover, the best part of using a cloud data warehouse is that they only charge you for the services you use. For example, based on your company data, you will require a certain amount of space in the cloud. Similarly, for the number of computations, you have to perform you will need a separate computational space. In the

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The Future Of The Pc Looks Cloudy

The PC of the future is on your desk. It’s also in your pocket. It’s inside your TV, your car and your refrigerator. The PC of your future doesn’t exist as one discrete tool; instead, it’s a personal network of devices that share data and collectively represent you to the rest of the Internet. By the year 2023, we will abandon our bulky desktops in favor of remote storage, lashing together our favorite music, movies and games with a web of internet-connected devices to build a digital raft of data that will buoy us through the ebb and flow of our daily lives.

In the future you can still build a powerful desktop PC with three monitors and a 10 petabyte hard drive, but you might find it more convenient to subscribe to Google Cloud and link all your devices and digital download accounts together under a single cloud computing service.

Of course in the future, major service providers will gobble up smaller services to become the digital megacorps we’ve always been secretly dreaming of. Only now are we beginning to see the balkanization of virtual services among different mobile phone providers; platform-agnostic cloud computing services like MobileMe, Google Apps and Microsoft’s Windows Azure are just the beginning. As much as I would like to predict a warm and loving future in which we all unite beneath one free and open Internet, I think it’s far more likely that in the future you will pick one corporate camp that best matches your computing needs and stick within it.

But how do I keep my data private?

In the far-flung future of 2023, you shouldn’t have any secrets from Big Brother Google. As ex-CEO Eric Schmidt once said, “if you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

If you think otherwise, make sure to shop around and find a cloud computing company that offers the best privacy guarantee; in the future, there will be enough competition among providers that you should have no trouble finding an encrypted cloud computing service that suits your unique needs. Accessing the Google file-sharing servers via GMail and Google Docs is already encrypted via SSL, and by 2023 we’ll see a whole host of competitors spring up as broadband internet access becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous in the global market.

What if I need to make movies, play games or perform other demanding computational tasks?

You’ll likely have to work under a bandwidth cap, but for a flat monthly fee you’ll be able to crunch numbers, play games and edit media from a netbook, tablet or even your TV. The success or failure of the OnLive game service will be our bellwether; if contemporary cloud gaming services like Gaikai and OnLive thrive, we can expect to see similar services spring up for any task that requires a high-end PC.

What if I lose network access?

Faster, cheaper broadband and the efforts of many major cities to expand municipal wireless will help, as will the spread of 4G cellular wireless networks. If nothing else works, there’s always chúng tôi the cloud!

Previously in this series…

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The Microscopic Future Of Surgical Robotics

The NeuroArm, a non-ferrous microsurgical robot—shown here with an electrified cutting tool and suction instrument—was used to remove a patient’s brain tumor in 2008, while she was being scanned with an MRI. University of Calgary

Chances are, you aren’t, and never will be, an astronaut. So the recent revelation that NASA is funding the development of a somewhat gruesome-sounding surgical bot—a fist-size contraption that would enter a patient’s gas-engorged abdomen to staunch bleeding or remove a ruptured appendix—isn’t exactly news you can use. The more relevant announcement might be from Intuitive Surgical, which announced that its newest robo-surgeon has been approved by the FDA. With thinner and more maneuverable arms, the da Vinci Xi will turn more open surgeries into minimally-invasive, robot-assisted procedures. Instead of requiring large incisions to get at various portions of a patient’s anatomy, the Xi will let surgeons reach essentially anywhere in the abdomen through smaller less traumatic punctures. With this clearance, the likelihood that you’ll one day be under the robotic knife just jumped significantly.

This is the near-term for robotic surgery, a gradual expansion of machines throughout the body, and through the full range of possible procedures. In addition to the da Vinci’s primary focus on the abdomen, bots are currently aiming drills in the brain, reshaping joints, and using lasers to correct vision. But the future of surgical bots appears be in some of the most challenging and specialized operations: microsurgery, or surgeries performed at a microscopic scale.

“Right now all of the operations we do are on the scale of human eyes and human hands,” says Catherine Mohr, director of medical research for Intuitive Surgical, referring to da Vinci-assisted procedures. “That’s because traditionally, medicine has been the laying of hands of the physician onto the patient, and trying to intervene. But we may be able to get that patient that much better an outcome because we’ve changed the scale of that interaction with robotics.”

It’s not that microsurgery is unheard of today. The issue is that, despite the fact that microscope-enabled surgery has been practiced for close to a century, it’s such a remarkably difficult and specialized skill, that the spectrum of related procedures is vanishingly narrow. And when those operations are possible, the waiting list for qualified surgeons can stretch for up to a year.

Robots, however, could turn more surgeons into microsurgeons, by translating large movements into minuscule ones. “Think about working in Photoshop, and you’re zoomed way in, working a pixel at a time on an image,” says Mohr. “Your mouse motions are still comfortable motions with your hand, but the scale that you’re working at is completely different.”

Microsurgery wouldn’t replace traditional surgeries, but could help solve specific problems. One example—though Mohr noted that it isn’t FDA approved, or backed up with overwhelming clinical data—would be treating breast cancer patients, who often suffer severe swelling and pain in their arms and hands following the removal of lymph nodes. This condition, called lymphedema, is caused by the disruption of natural drainage channels, meaning that blood isn’t flowing properly back through the patient’s system. Redirecting blood flow is theoretically possible, but incredibly challenging, as surgeons try to sew tiny vessels that are only barely visible under a microscope. “I’m excited that, if I can change that scale, for someone who’s got this terrible edema, we could start sewing their lymphatic channels onto the local veins, and drain it,” says Mohr. “So instead of spending their lives with compression stockings on their arms, we can go in and do a small intervention and fix it.”

For Intuitive Surgical, microsurgery is a target for research, but not a confirmed direction for development. But a microsurgical robot built by researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands is currently in clinical trials, with results expected by 2024. The unnamed bot is operated with dual joysticks and a foot pedal that adjusts the scale. It’s initially intended for complex reconstructive procedures in the hand and face, offering increased precision for microscopic procedures, such as connecting nerve fibers and tiny blood vessels.

The NeuroArm, a robot that can perform micro-scale neurosurgery while a patient is undergoing an MRI, has already been used in Canada to remove a 21-year-old patient’s brain tumor. The bot, which uses non-ferrous materials (to avoid interacting with the MRI’s magnets), was acquired by surgical imaging firm IMRIS, and has since been rebranded as the SYMBIS Surgical System. SYMBIS isn’t available for sale yet, but IMRIS already sells specialized MRI systems, which allow for scans mid-procedure. Once it’s cleared for use, SYMBIS would allow the surgeon to image the patient’s brain without removing instruments.

There are other examples of microsurgical bots currently in development, including Johns Hopkins University’s Steady-Hand Eye Robot, which deals solely with retinal procedures, and Carnegie Mellon University’s Micron, a handheld robotic instrument that would use gyroscopes and actuators to actively boost the precision of the surgeon. All of these systems are years and possibly decades from use, if they make it to market at all. But Intuitive Surgical’s interest in microsurgery is a clear indication of what’s to come. Despite a series of lawsuits leveled at the company in 2013, and the subsequent negative media coverage and pummeling in the stock market, Intuitive is the biggest maker of surgical robots, and one of the driving forces in the entire robotics industry, with systems that routinely sell for more than $2M, and more than 200,000 da Vinci procedures conducted yearly. And according to Mohr, adding micro-scale capabilities might not require entirely new robots, but rather new instruments and other modular components that would attach to some portion of the more than 2500 da Vinci’s already installed worldwide.

For us prospective patients, it doesn’t necessarily matter who makes microsurgery more accessible. What matters is that it’s coming. “We as a medical community haven’t made a lot of therapies that require that kind of super microscopic view and manipulation, because those are at the limit of what the human hands can do at unscaled motion,” says Mohr. “But if we kind of break that barrier, I think it will unleash a lot of new therapies that will have profound effects on patients’ lives.”

Is Square The Future Of Mobile Payments?

Last week it was reported that Square, a mobile credit card reader, had opened its doors and was available for download in the app store. Square is the brainchild of Jack Dorsey, who is also co-founder of Twitter.

The app, when used in conjunction with a small card reader that plugs into the auxiliary port, allows anyone to process credit card payments. This takes “mobile payments” to a whole new level as now small businesses and vendors can process payments without the need for a wired or complex point-of-sale system.

All you need is a compatible device (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or one of select Android devices), the card reader, and a signal on your device.

So what does this mean for retailers and small businesses? Is it secure to use? And what about the cost? Will this be the new method businesses large and small use? Read more to find out…

Cost

Using Square is not terribly expensive. The mobile card reader is free when you are approved for a Square account, and the transaction fee is 2.75% + .15 to swipe. It’s slightly more if keyed in. There’s no start-up fee, monthly fee, minimum fee, early-cancellation fee, or any other bizarre and ridiculous fee. Transaction fee. That’s it!

Security

When watching the demo video, the part I was most impressed with was the finger-based signature. Merchants can allay customer fears or hesitation by allowing them to hold the device, swipe it themselves, and then sign onscreen with their finger. They’ll see the transaction is complete, their information is secure (only the last 4 digits of the card will show), and they don’t need to worry. Receipts are sent immediately to their email.

Is it unreasonable to expect a jailbreak app designed to clone or retain the swiped info? Maybe not, but do thieves really want to go through the hassle of creating some kind of “business” with items or services to sell so they can dupe people into swiping their card on a phone? I run a small business, and honestly it sounds like a lot less work to learn how to pickpocket.

Convenience

Obviously, this is Square’s strongest selling point. This is a truly wireless and simple solution to credit card processing. Further, it doesn’t just make accepting credit cards easier, in some cases it makes it possible when it wasn’t before.

Think of festivals and street fairs, places where cash-only is the norm. They can now turn a bigger profit by snagging those customers that don’t carry cash or forgot to stop by the ATM (or maybe are too cheap to pay that $3 withdraw fee!)

But it’s not just small businesses and vendors that could benefit, I imagine larger companies can, too. Apple stores are a great example of mobile payment, with their own card reader and device to process payments on the spot. Now other retailers can trial out this system using Square.

It may not happen in your local department stores, but perhaps seasonal retailers that set-up shop temporarily or sell door-to-door can make use of Square’s simplicity. Maybe in the future, Square will grow to include a barcode-scanning system and inventory count for retailers.

The Downsides

Square is still an app, and apps still crash or have bugs. Already Square’s pushed out an update to resolve some issues. And it might be discouraging to think of lost revenue or customers because AT&T’s network is having a grumpy day or your business is in a weak reception area.

And of course, phones are lost every day, which could compromise security. And then there’s the fact that Square is only as good as your device’s battery. Better keep that cord handy and make sure an outlet’s nearby.

But most of these downsides can be avoided or remedied easily. Find a bug? Let Square know. Bad reception? Invest in a Microcell. Lost your phone? Good thing you had a passcode that was set to erase the data after 10 failed attempts. (You did think to do that, right?) Didn’t charge your battery? Well then you shouldn’t be running a business because you don’t know how to plan! (I kid, I kid.)

Is This the Future?

Mobile payment processing is no doubt catching on and building buzz. Paypal has their options, and I think the field is bound to get more crowded. Crowded means competition, which is usually a good thing.

I own a small business that sells clothing at local festivals, and I have used the bank’s merchant payment processing system. It’s a cumbersome and expensive tool, and the cost hasn’t really been worth the benefit of being able to accept credit cards. Square is a greatly welcome alternative. I can’t wait to try it out.

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