Google Glass has teamed up with several companies for apps that "simplify travel experiences"
Glassware now includes apps from OpenTable, Foursquare, TripIt, and others.
Now that Google Glass Google Explorers can be purchased by anyone with $1,500 to spend, Google has paired with OpenTable, FourSquare, TripIt, and other companies to “simplify travel experiences for everyone from business travelers to day trippers and world explorers, according to the OpenTable blog.
Using a few verbal commands and swipes, the OpenTable Glassware app allows wearers to make dinner reservations.
According to a review from The Next Web, although Glassware will display results based on your restaurant or city selection, you still have to manually swipe to browse results, and you cannot make changes to a reservation through Glassware.
The new Foursquare app allows wearers to “check in” or “find a place” using voice commands, and will tailor results to your GPS location.
TripIt, which does not include an audio command, will display your itinerary, including your OpenTable reservations.
Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.
Pomp + Circumstance: 10 Top Boston Graduation Party Restaurants
Buh-bye boxed ramen noodles. Time to toss the mortarboard in the air and celebrate with a well-deserved graduation meal—before it’s time for ramen noodles all over again. It’s spring in Boston, yes, but it’s also known as graduation season — weeks of ceremonies take place in colleges and universities, from Boston College and Boston University to Emerson, MIT, and Tufts University, all over town. Here are 10 top Boston graduation party restaurants to splurge it up with visiting family and friends (who are most likely footing the bill) and toast to a new life of promises. To the grad!
The new Palm restaurant has been replanted in the Financial District (much bigger space than its Copley Place location) and is a solid celebratory choice, thanks to an outdoor dining deck and executive chef Karen Mitchell’s classic touch. Being a steakhouse, expect dishes like Double Cut Lamb Chops, Filet Mignon, and the Prime Double Cut New York Strip 36 ounce (for two to three persons, sliced tableside). Name your sauce — brandy, peppercorn, hollandaise, béarnaise or chimichurri. And, like any good steakhouse, there is that requisite Iceberg Lettuce Wedge salad (Danish blue cheese, toasted walnuts, bacon, cherry tomatoes, chives and fried onions). For landlocked, heart-set-on-lobster out-of-towners who have climbed mountains to travel to New England, Jumbo Nova Scotia Lobsters are served here, too. The perfect ending to a successful college career — the Big Chocolate Layer Cake, a seven-layer dark chocolate cake with chocolate ganache. Make a reservation at The Palm.
A Back Bay beauty, with the spotlight on Mediterranean seafood at which chef/owner Jamie Mammano works closely with local fishmongers to bring just-plucked-from-the-sea fish and seafood to Ostra. Order the Paella “Valenciana Style” (Spain’s bomba rice, saffron, Maine lobster, shrimp, mussels, clams, octopus, squid, drumette confit, and chorizo) or the Grilled Sea Beam in Trevisano Leaf with extra virgin olive oil, lemon, snipped herbs. For dessert, the Chocolate Hazelnut Cremeux with Popcorn Ice Cream is a tassel tease, for sure. Make a reservation at Ostra.
Chef/owner Jamie Mammano is also at the helm of stylish, chic Sorellina in the Back Bay. The menu elevates regional Italian cuisine to Ph.D. levels — salute the newly minted graduate with the Maccheroncelli (American wagyu beef meatballs, Montepulciano sauce, and Parmigiano) and Spaghetti with Prawns, Chili, Guanciale, and Spicy Tomato Brodo. To finish, spoil the hard-working student with the Tiramisu (espresso savoiardi, coffee caramel, and mascarpone mousse). Make a reservation at Sorellina.
Harvard grads have been celebrating the graduation milestone at Cambridge’s venerable Harvest since 1975. The handmade pastas are especially popular including the Soft Egg Ravioli (Ben & Tyler’s mushrooms, arugula-hazelnut pesto, and housemade ricotta). A three- or six-course tasting menu is also recommended for special occasions. Among the tastes are the Scituate Scallop (cucumber, fava beans, radish, jalapeno gel, and lemongrass broth) and the Painted Hills Beef Striploin (fingerling potatoes, asparagus, and ramp butter) Harvest is also spot-on for brunch if you need to start the day drinking a bit earlier. Because why wait? Make a reservation at Harvest.
Top of the Hub
The sky’s the limit for the lofty grad at this restaurant that sits atop the Prudential Tower. “We have become a tradition with many families who live in the area and for those who have come to this area from throughout America and from around the world,” says a restaurant spokeswoman. There’s seating for parties of up to 10 (and a private dining for larger parties). Custom-made cakes are created and decorated for each graduate by executive pastry chef Tommy Choi and his team — think chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, vanilla cake with chocolate, butter cream or whipped cream, layers of fresh fruit, and “a Hong Kong recipe” that is light as a feather.” Or, go traditional with a Top of the Hub fave — timeless Boston Cream Pie. Toast with a glass of Champagne, and splurge with the New England Fisherman’s Bowl (local catch, lobster, mussels, clams, chorizo, kale, potatoes, and clam butter broth). Or, for meat lovers, the Grilled Filet Mignon (creamy Yukon golds, caramelized garlic, and grilled asparagus) beckons. Make a reservation at Top of the Hub.
Meritage Restaurant + Wine Bar, Boston Harbor Hotel
Chef Daniel Bruce is passionate about wine. He is the founder of the Boston Wine Festival, has nurtured relationships with vintners around the globe, and his vineyard-to-table Meritage is celebrated for its unique wine and food pairings. White wine lovers will want to order seafood or one of the lighter preparations on the menu like the Roasted Atlantic Halibut (white asparagus sauce and tiny turnips). Red wine lovers should pair their pick with one of the red meat dishes or braises on the menu like the Cardamom, Black Pepper and Cinnamon Grilled Filet Mignon (aged cheddar and horseradish cream, and walnut tossed French beans). Make a reservation at Meritage Restaurant + Wine Bar.
A nostalgic supper club gone modern, Yvonne’s blends cosmo cuisine with uber-service in a chic setting. Yvonne’s had big black pumps to fill — it took over the same space as the celebrated Locke-Ober, which was beloved by Boston’s elite crowd (including JFK himself. Ahem!) and was one of Boston’s (and the country’s) oldest and most successful restaurants. Order shared plates like Hamachi Crudo Toast or the Grilled “Viper” Chop with Kimchee Fried Rice. Drink away your impending student loans with large format cocktails like the Standard Punch (Rye Whiskey, oolong tea, raspberry, lemon, sage, and soda) or Crack Krakatuk (Privateer and Foursquare rums, Calvados, smoked cinnamon, lemon, and Champagne). Make a reservation at Yvonne’s.
Chef-owner Christopher Coombs designed and built his dream kitchen here in the heart of Boston at the corner of Commonwealth and Massachusetts Avenues. His menu is all about fine dining with high value and a nightly $99 tasting menu gives diners a chance to explore it all. Dishes are contemporary French-inspired with American ingredients — in the expert hands of executive chef Adrienne Mosier, Chef de cuisine Stefanie Bui, and pastry chef Shaun Velez. Especially popular is the “Night Moves” Scituate Lobster with Gnocchi (potato gnocchi, mushrooms, green grapes, curried walnuts, and pearl onions in a citrus fricassee). For dessert, there are several unique sweets on the menu, including the Crème Brulee (brown butter pound cake, yogurt mousse, candied baby carrots, carrot citrus sorbet). Make a reservation at Deuxave
Celebrate new beginnings with the spring prix-fixe and degustation menus at Boston’s much-loved French restaurant that’s been around the block — quite literally. The intimate restaurant was a Gloucester Street landmark for years before moving next to the Mandarin Oriental hotel, where it still holds court. Four luxe dining rooms are the showcase for award-winning chef Frank McClelland, who treats diners to a sampling of his New England-French fare, including Beurre Noisette Poached Maine Lobster (with shrimp dumpling, Dutch asparagus nage, grapefruit, and basil), and Jamison Farm Lamb (roasted loin, garlic sausage, birch-glazed bacon, new onions, and favas.) Make a reservation at L’Espalier.
Grill 23 & Bar
Nice touch: The Back Bay steakhouse and seafood grill will serve wine vintages for the year the grad was born (if it is not in the wine collection already, it can be ordered, so request ahead of time.) A new bar menu and premium burger selection sprung this spring and a reinvented cocktail menu, too. Shareable dishes like the Laughing Bird Shrimp Louie (grilled avocado, fried egg, and celery root crisps), Foie Gras Sliders (swapping out buns for two halves of a homemade cider doughnut that hugs a slab of foie gras and is slathered with jalapeno jelly), and the Grill 23 Six Shooter kicks New England’s freshest oysters up a notch with a spicy cerveza base. Make a reservation at Grill 23 & Bar.
Laurie Bain Wilson is a Boston-based journalist, author, and essayist who writes often about travel, food, and baseball. Find her on Twitter @laurieheather.
Glass sold-out in subtle charcoal as Google boosts wearable
Google has already sold out of one color of Glass, with supplies of the most discrete of the five wearable finishes exhausted after it was put up for general sale a couple of days ago. The charcoal finish – as close as Glass gets to plain black – is now sold-out, Google pointed out today, leaving four colors to choose from.
Those wanting something discrete should probably look to the shale finish next, which is a lighter grey than charcoal. Of course, there are also some brighter options, including tangerine orange, cotton white, and sky blue.
Google hasn’t said exactly how much stock it has remaining of Glass, and so it’s impossible to say whether sales of the wearable computer have been rampant, or if just a few remaining devices have finally been shifted.
Still, it’s interesting to note that when it last put Glass up for general sale, Google sold out of the cotton white version first.
At $1,500 apiece, Glass is arguably a tough sell. Google has sweetened the deal in recent batches by throwing in a pair of prescription-ready frames from its Titanium Collection, but teardown reports pointing out the “true” cost of components have reignited complaints that, even for developer hardware, it’s overpriced.
Meanwhile, Google is said to be working on the next generation of Glass, with a new eyepiece among other improvements. The company has previously said that it aims to have the consumer version of the headset on the market in 2014, and is likely to have more news on that at Google I/O in June.
At the same time, third-party developers continue to gradually look to creating Glassware. Overnight, Glass’ usefulness for travelers increased considerably, with Foursquare, TripIt, and OpenTable apps all released.
Reuters reports that nine of the 16 app Glass app makers contacted said they’d abandoned their projects, mostly because of the lack of customers or limitations of the device. Three more have switched to developing for business, leaving behind consumer projects. —including a guy who won $10,000 for his efforts. Tom Frencel, the Chief Executive of Little Guy Games:
If there was 200 million Google Glasses sold, it would be a different perspective. There’s no market at this point.
The Glass Collective, a venture effort to fund apps for Glass, invested in only three or four small start-ups by the beginning of this year. Three of Google’s key employees on the Glass team have left. One source tells the publication that a consumer launch has been delayed, possibly till 2015. Glass Head of Business Operations Chris O’Neill:
We are completely energized and as energized as ever about the opportunity that wearables and Glass in particular represent. We are as committed as ever to a consumer launch. That is going to take time and we are not going to launch this product until it’s absolutely ready.
GOOGLE GLASS Contents:- ï Introduction ï Technologies used . Source : slideplayer.com
Google Glass applications are free applications built by third-party developers. Glass also uses many existing Google applications, such as Google Now, Google Maps, Google+, and Gmail. Many developers and companies have built applications for Glass, including news apps, facial recognition, exercise, photo manipulation, translation, and sharing to social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. Third-party applications announced at South by Southwest (SXSW) include Evernote, Skitch, The New York Times, and Path.
On March 23, 2013, Google released the Mirror API, allowing developers to start making apps for Glass. In the terms of service, it was stated that developers may not put ads in their apps or charge fees a Google representative told The Verge that this might change in the future.
On May 16, 2013, Google announced the release of seven new programs, including reminders from Evernote, fashion news from Elle, and news alerts from CNN. Following Google's XE7 Glass Explorer Edition update in early July 2013, evidence of a "Glass Boutique", a store that will allow synchronization to Glass of Glassware and APKs, was noted.
Version XE8 made a debut for Google Glass on August 12, 2013. It brings an integrated video player with playback controls, the ability to post an update to Path, and lets users save notes to Evernote. Several other minute improvements include volume controls, improved voice recognition, and several new Google Now cards.
On November 19, 2013, Google unveiled its Glass Development Kit, showcasing a translation tool Word Lens, a cooking program AllTheCooks, and an exercise program Strava among others as successful examples. Google announced three news programs in May 2014 â" TripIt, FourSquare and OpenTable â" in order to entice travelers. On June 25, 2014, Google announced that notifications from Android Wear would be sent to Glass.
The European University Press published the first book to be read with Google Glass on October 8, 2014, as introduced at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The book can be read as a normal paper book or â" enriched with multimedia elements â" with Google Glass, Kindle, on Smartphone and Pads on the platforms iOS and Android.
Google offers a companion Android and iOS app called MyGlass, which allows the user to configure and manage the device.
Other than the touchpad, Google Glass can be controlled using just "voice actions". To activate Glass, wearers tilt their heads 30Â° upward (which can be altered for preference) or simply tap the touchpad, and say "O.K., Glass." Once Glass is activated, wearers can say an action, such as "Take a picture", "Record a video", "Hangout with [person/Google+ circle]", "Google 'What year was Wikipedia founded?'", "Give me directions to the Eiffel Tower", and "Send a message to John" (many of these commands can be seen in a product video released in February 2013). For search results that are read back to the user, the voice response is relayed using bone conduction through a transducer that sits beside the ear, thereby rendering the sound almost inaudible to other people.
File:Google Glass detail.jpg - Wikimedia Commons. Source : commons.wikimedia.org
Several proofs of concept for Google Glass have been proposed in healthcare.
Augmedix developed an app for the wearable device that allows physicians to live-stream the patient visit and claims it will eliminate electronic health record problems, possibly saving them up to 15 hours a week and improving record quality. The video stream is passed to remote scribes in HIPAA secure rooms where the doctor-patient interaction is transcribed, allowing physicians to focus on the patient. Hundreds of users were evaluating the app as of mid-2015.
Doctors Phil Haslam and Sebastian Mafeld demonstrated the first application of Google Glass in the field of interventional radiology. They demonstrated how Google Glass could assist a liver biopsy and fistulaplasty, and the pair stated that Google Glass has the potential to improve patient safety, operator comfort, and procedure efficiency in the field of interventional radiology.
On June 20, 2013, Rafael J. Grossmann, a Venezuelan doctor practicing in the U.S., was the first surgeon to demonstrate the use of Google Glass during a live surgical procedure. In August 2013, Google Glass was used at Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University. Surgeon Dr. Christopher Kaeding used Google Glass to consult with a distant colleague in Columbus, Ohio. A group of students at The Ohio State University College of Medicine also observed the operation on their laptop computers. Following the procedure, Kaeding stated, "To be honest, once we got into the surgery, I often forgot the device was there. It just seemed very intuitive and fit seamlessly." On June 21, 2013, Spanish doctor Pedro Guillen, chief of trauma service of ClÃnica CEMTRO of Madrid, also broadcast a surgery using Google Glass.
In July 2013, Lucien Engelen commenced research on the usability and impact of Google Glass in the health care field. As of August 2013, Engelen, based at Singularity University and in Europe at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, was the first healthcare professional in Europe to participate in the Glass Explorer program. His research on Google Glass (starting August 9, 2013) was conducted in operating rooms, ambulances, a trauma helicopter, general practice, and home care as well as the use in public transportation for visually or physically impaired. Research included taking pictures, videos streaming to other locations, dictating operative log, having students watch the procedures and tele-consultation through Hangout. Engelen documented his findings in blogs, videos, pictures, on Twitter, and on Google+, with research ongoing as of that date.
In Australia, during January 2014, Melbourne tech startup Small World Social collaborated with the Australian Breastfeeding Association to create the first hands-free breastfeeding Google Glass application for new mothers. The application, named Google Glass Breastfeeding app trial, allows mothers to nurse their baby while viewing instructions about common breastfeeding issues (latching on, posture etc.) or call a lactation consultant via a secure Google Hangout, who can view the issue through the mother's Google Glass camera. The trial was successfully concluded in Melbourne in April 2014, with 100% of participants breastfeeding confidently.
In June 2014, Google Glass ability to acquire images of a patient's retina ("Glass Fundoscopy") was publicly demonstrated for the first time at the Wilmer Clinical Meeting at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine by Dr. Aaron Wang and Dr. Allen Eghrari. This technique was featured on the cover of the Journal for Mobile Technology in Medicine for January 2015.
In July 2014, the startup company Surgery Academy, in Milan, Italy, launched a remote training platform for medical students. The platform is a MOOC that allows students to join any operating theater thanks to Google Glass worn by surgeon. Also in July 2014, This Place released an app, MindRDR, to connect Glass to a Neurosky EEG monitor to allow people to take photos and share them to Twitter or Facebook using brain signals. It is hoped this will allow people with severe physical disabilities to engage with social media.
There are several groups developing Google Glass based technologies to help children with autism learn about emotion and facial expressions. The first of these was developed by Brain Power who published the first academic paper on the use of Google Glass technology in children with autism.
A visually impaired dancer, Benjamin Yonattan, used Google Glass to overcome his chronic vision condition. In 2015, Yonattan performed on the reality television program America's Got Talent.
Journalism and mass media applications
In 2014, Voice of America Television Correspondent Carolyn Presutti and VOA Electronics Engineer Jose Vega began a web project called "VOA & Google Glass," which explored the technology's potential uses in journalism. This series of news stories examined the technology's live reporting applications, including conducting interviews and covering stories from the reporter's point of view. On March 29, 2014, American a cappella group Pentatonix partnered with Voice of America when lead singer Scott Hoying wore Glass in the band's performance at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., during the band's worldwide tour â" the first use of Glass by a lead singer in a professional concert.
In the fall of 2014, The University of Southern California conducted a course called "Glass Journalism," which explored the device's application in journalism.
The WWF as of mid-2014 used Google Glass and UAVs to track various animals and birds in the jungle, which may be the first use of the device by a non-profit, Non-governmental Organization (NGO).
In 2014, the International Olympic Committee Young Reporters programme took Google Glass to the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games and put them on a number of athletes from different disciplines to explore novel point of view filmmaking.
A Year With Google Glass
I've now been using Google Glass on and off for a year now. Read on to see how it holds up.
I've now been using Google Glass on and off for a year now, and in many respects my initial thoughts hold up: Glass is an interesting tool that predicts where wearable computing is going, but it's not something I need to wear every day, at least not in its current state.
On the other hand, I continue to be amazed at the amount of misinformation out there: Glass at least as it currently exists isn't a big privacy concern, nor is it as difficult to use as you would think from a silly Saturday Night Live sketch.
Indeed, one of the big problems with wearing it is just that it still draws a lot of attention. Unless I'm at an event filled with Glass users, I invariably get people coming up to me asking about that SNL skit or about becoming one of the Borg. That's fun initially, but those jokes have now gotten a little old. I also still get people who think wearing Glass could mean I'm invading their privacy by taking their picture, and have to explain that if I wanted to secretly record them, Glass is far too obtrusive there are a lot of tiny spy cameras that would be much more discrete, less obtrusive devices. And I often find that even in a regular conversation, it's just distracting, both for me and for the people I'm talking to. As a result, I don't wear Glass all that often. I mostly use it when I really have a desire to capture a scene, or to get information about the things going on around me.
Still, now that Glass is available for everyone, I thought I'd explain how I've found Glass to really work, where I've found it useful, and how it has changed over the year.
Where I continue to find it most useful is for walking through a space and trying to capture impressions about what's going on. It's easy to say "OK Glass" (the voice-recognition trigger for the device) and then "Take a Picture" or "Record a Video" or just to tap the button on the top of the left side of the Glass frame and take a picture. It's much easier than having to bring out a smartphone (or a real camera), turn on the camera mode, point, and shoot. This is especially true if you're carrying something else, such as a notepad or a briefcase, where the hands-free operation is a big plus.
I've used Glass at a variety of conferences, trade shows, and just out and about. I did an early post on what the All Things Digital conference looked like through Glass, and since then I've used it at a variety of other events. In general, I've found the camera not to be up to the latest high-end phones, but certainly good enough for documenting events for online posting or just keeping a record of what you saw.
For instance, I was on the organizing committee of a recent local Mini Maker Faire, and captured some pictures of the event while working on other projects. (The lead photo shows me wearing it at the event)
It was great for capturing the scene at CES or Mobile World Congress, or even at a big agricultural fair last fall.
And landscapes, such as the Rensselaer campus, work great.
But of course, if all you want is to take photos and videos, Glass is probably overkill. It's great for wide shots and relatively close shots of people, but you don't have nearly the control you'd have with a camera or even a smartphone. Still, that's the application I find I use the most, just because it's so convenient.
Rather, it's the other things that Glass can do that make the device special. Obviously, the most apparent is that you can say "OK Glass," then "Google," and then ask a question. I have found that useful, though only up to a point. It's a bit like Google Now, in that it works better when you ask it a question with a clear answer, such as "who won the Cubs game?" or "how tall is the Empire State Building?" As with Google Now, it does a surprisingly good job in certain domains, ranging from sports and weather to some basic facts, typically bringing up "cards" that show you the results.
But it's less useful than a phone if Google Now doesn't have a "card" with the answer, and instead just shows you the results of a Google Search query with a site name and the kind of description you'd see on the original Google search pages. Glass will show you the full page if you ask it to, but the screen is so small, I have real trouble reading it.
Overall, I've found it useful when wearing it, but not so much so that I wear Glass all the time. Maybe that's because I almost always have a smartphone with me, but I expect that's true for all Glass users.
The other built-in apps are also occasionally useful. You can set up a couple of close contacts and quickly send text messages to them, and that works well. And it actually works quite well with giving you directions to another location, although as I've said before, I wouldn't really do this while driving because I find Glass a bit distracting.
Over the past year, Glass software has changed significantly. Google has been updating the software about once a month, adding new features. I'm now running XE 17.1, which is based on Android KitKat. This seems a bit faster and smoother than some of the recent releases, which is certainly appreciated. It's been feeling a bit too "beta-like" for my tastes over the past few months, but the new update does seem a bit smoother.
Just as importantly over the past year, Glass has gotten a number of new features, as has the MyGlass application that controls the device, with this month's update promising a big change in the look of MyGlass. (I haven't gotten this update yet). MyGlass lets you pair your device with a phone, share a wireless data connection, see a "Screencast" of what the Glass display is showing (where many of the screenshots in this story came from) and perhaps most importantly, turn on and off the various third-party applications Google has approved.
Over the course of the year, photos have improved with things such as HDR and the ability to caption photos. Recent features include smarter phone answering, sorting the commands by frequency and most recent use (a problem, because the number of commands has expanded), calendar support, and the ability to see SMS notifications from an iPhone. Meanwhile, some features, such as video calling, have been tried and (probably temporarily) dropped.
Third-Party Glass Apps
But to me, the biggest story is the continuing evolution of third-party applications, which Google refers to as "Glassware." There are now dozens of official Glassware apps (as well as a number of other unofficial ones you can find on sites such as Google Glass Apps.) Some recent apps include TripIt, Foursquare, and OpenTable. You can now snap a picture of your receipt with the Concur app and have it automatically added to your expense account.
A number of the applications just give you notifications of things going on, such as CNN and the New York Times, Facebook, and Twitter. That sounds good in principle, but in practice, I just thought there were too many notices. After a while, it seems more annoying than useful. Similarly, you can get Facebook and Twitter updates, but I found I'd rather use a smartphone for that kind of information.
But among the apps I've found most useful are WordLens, which translates signs and Field Trip, which tells you about the buildings and locations around you as your walk through a city. For instance, I used Glass while taking friends around New York City, using Field Trip and taking photos from the Empire State Building.
Indeed, it's such "augmented reality" applications that I think actually have the best chance of making Glass or its successors popular with a general consumer applications. That's because these are things that work with the world you see around you as you are walking around it's more convenient than the same app on your smartphone, and it's more oriented around what you are looking at.
Similarly, the ability to have Maps send you walking directions is a great idea, although I wish that really functioned more like a heads-up display. For now, Google is blocking face recognition, which seems to make some sense. As much as it would be good to see someone and immediately know their recent tweets, I can certainly see where that would be creepy.
In the meantime, other users of Glass and similar devices are finding more vertical markets. Some of the most interesting deal with medical applications. There have been a lot of stories about doctors using Glass, either for medical records or even surgery. The potential in such applications is clear, even if they aren't quite ready to be mainstream yet.
And companies like Epson and Vuzix have introduced wearable devices that are aimed more at industrial applications. I find this fascinating, but not really applicable to my daily life.
So far, I haven't seen anything that really looks mainstream in the wearable computing market. As for Glass, the physical hardware is now slightly different than it was when it first came out. Explorer owners were given the chance to upgrade the hardware for a newer version that is slightly different, and I did the upgrade. As I result, I could order a pair of prescription frames that I could attach Glass to, and will probably try this at some point. Instead, I just wear them over my glasses, though I have friends who have tried the prescription option and say it's far less distracting. (One friend of mine swears it's the best navigation system, but I'm not convinced.)
One nice new feature is the ability to add earbuds instead of just using the bone-induction speaker on the device. That helps in noisy environments, and optional stereo earbuds would be better for listening to music. Google Play Music is now available to take advantage of that.
Even though it's now available to everyone, Glass remains in what Google calls an "Explorer Edition," meaning that the company realizes it's not yet a mainstream product, but rather aimed at developers and early adopters. And I think that's right it's an interesting look into the potential future of such devices, but it's too big, bulky, and distracting not to mention expensive to be a mainstream product yet.
But the concept remains fascinating. Over the past year, one of the things that has impressed me is how much has changed, particularly on the software side. I'm hoping to see even bigger changes in both hardware and software in the year to come.
Have you seen anyone walking around with a Google Glass yet? If you were in London a few weeks ago, then you might have walked past me and wondered what on earth I was wearing on my face? In the life cycle of this particular innovation, the much-anticipated Google Glass, we’re still firmly in the early adopter stage and it hasn’t yet become a mainstream accessory, hence why we don’t see that many Google Glass around. But this is a firm indication of the direction of travel, with the trend for wearables (the term given to mobile devices such as smart watches) on the increase, as we seek to improve our lives through the gadgets, apps and devices that have revolutionised our lives. Not only do we want to be ‘always on’, hooked up to the internet and contactable 24/7, but we also want to have the ability to get everything done on the move.
Additionally, our new obsession with the ‘quantified self’ means we track our every movement with our smartphones, and wearables are yet another step towards measuring every aspect of our lives. We measure our steps, our running/cycling, our calorie intake, our heart rate and our sleep pattern with wearables, and alongside all of that we want our wearables to have connectivity and do all of the normal things our smartphone can do, like make calls, send messages, find directions, take pictures and connect to social media. I rarely talk about my day job here on my blog, but I actually work in strategy in the mobile industry, so all things tech and digital are of great relevance for me. I was thrilled to get the chance to test them out for a full weekend.
So what exactly is a Google Glass?
They were created in 2013 by Google but only launched here in the UK to the public this June 2014. With a hefty price tag of £1,000, it’s understandable that they don’t already adorn the faces of the entire nation. They are firmly in the luxury tech category, with only the super early adopters really sporting them. So how did I come across a pair? A luxury online travel company called HolidaysPlease, who I used on my recent trip to Hong Kong, have just started loaning Google Glass to their most loyal customers, those who have reward points and who book one of their holidays. They will then post you the Google Glass to take away with you and experiment with on your holiday. Totally free of charge!
Straight off I loved the idea and tried them out around London a few weeks ago. I started out on the Saturday with a food tour around East London with Eating London (full review of that scrumptious excursion coming soon!), I then pottered around Shoreditch trying out the various apps, headed to a friend’s house party in the evening, and on Sunday explored Clapham and went for a run on Clapham Common with the Google Glass.
My first reactions included a bit of embarrassment, and the first moment I wore them outside of the house took a fair amount of courage. Just look at that photo to see how peculiar I look! I don’t usually wear glasses, so having something on my face felt a bit strange, but as the actual screen is so small I soon got used to it and my eyes learnt to focus. The apps, known as ‘Glassware’, I used most were Camera (for photos and videos), Google Search (works with voice command just like Siri on iPhones), Google Maps for directions, and Field Trip for discovering interesting places nearby. The apps I think would be most handy for travelling abroad are:
- Word Lens – instant on-screen translation of foreign words, for example on signs, menus, etc.
- Google Maps – directions without needing to look down at your phone, so you can actually take in your surroundings
- Field Trip – a guide to sights, landmarks, restaurants, bars and practically anything else of interest nearby you.
- Camera – to take 5 megapixel shots and record videos quickly if your actual camera is deep in your pocket at the very moment you need it.
- GuidiGo – over 250 guided tours for 27 destinations, designed by local experts with audio, detailed maps, images.
- OpenTable – for making last-minute restaurant reservations nearby
- Hotel Near Me – for booking hotel rooms nearby
- TripIt – for managing your flight itineraries and getting flight alerts
- Foursquare – I don’t personally use Foursquare, but I know it’s pretty popular among the travelling communit
- Once you’ve had a Google Glass on for a little while, you barely notice it. The little screen isn’t nearly as intrusive in your line of vision as you might think.
- In addition to using voice command, you can also control it through a series of swipes and taps on one side, perfect for quiet places such as meeting rooms or classrooms (or also if, like me, you sometimes feel silly talking to yourself in public!).
- As it’s still a new tech trend, it has a certain wow factor. When I revealed the Google Glass at the party on the Saturday night, my friends were fighting over each other to try it on and see how it works!
- I also loved being hands-free for once and being able to look up, instead of down at my phone.
- Google Glass comes into it’s own when you’re somewhere unfamiliar. As I live in South-West London and work in Central, I don’t know East London like the back of my hand, so I actually needed the Google Glass for quite a few reasons. However, back on my own turf in SW6 and SW11 it wasn’t so necessary and was therefore less useful.
- One surprising feature is that it works with iPhones as well as with Android, which is an interesting move from Google, one that they probably realised was essential to gain a critical mass.
- The 5 megapixel camera is pretty decent, just look at these three photos below, although there’s no zoom control. And contrary to what I’d heard, the camera doesn’t flash a red light when it’s recording images or video, it makes no sign at all. So you can take as many sneaky photos as you like, and no one with ever know…
- The opportunities for developers of Glassware are pretty endless. Just check out the Glassware Gallery to see what apps are available: all the Google apps, all the Social Networks, lots of Sports and Fitness apps including Strava and apps to help you perfect that basketball shot or golf swing, News apps including the Guardian, NY Times and Mashable, Cooking apps, Productivity apps like Evernote, Restaurant/Flight/Hotel booking apps like OpenTable and TripIt, Music apps like Shazam, Gaming apps, etc. For example, Zombies Run is an app (also available on iPhone) that gamifies running and creates a virtual reality where zombies are chasing after you and if you slow down they they’ll catch you! It turned my run around Clapham Common into a ‘mission’, collecting health packs and other items, and trying to outrun the zombies! I was training for my recent 10k run (read about that here) and I am really not a fan of running, so I really liked turning it into a game!
- I didn’t use it, but I’m intrigued as to how the Refresh app works. It basically delivers and instant dossier about the people you meet. It does this through info in your calendar, your contacts and your social networks. It doesn’t seem to involve face recognition with strangers but surely this is only a step away! If Facebook has face-identifying technology through the photos we upload, then surely this MI5 / FBI style espionage is only a year or so away. Scary, but potentially very powerful.
The Google Glass is still in its early days so of course there are things that could be improved. These are mainly technical details, which I imagine will be smoothed out in future versions.
- First of all, it takes time to learn how it works. You can be up and running with the basics in just a few minutes but to really get the most of it you’ll need to set aside some time pre-holiday to installing and setting up the Glassware.
- Secondly, it requires a smartphone for connectivity to the internet, which is fine in your home country but it will require you to pay for roaming in other countries. It’s virtually useless on its own or without connectivity to the internet.
- Another negative is the poor battery life. A full charge didn’t even last me an entire day, so I kept turning it off to conserve battery. Not ideal.
- A Google Glass wearer looks like they’ve just stepped out of Star Trek – a bit 80s. While I soon got used to having it on my head, the general public passing me in the street did not. I got a lot of silent stares, confused looks and the odd intrigued question, and to be honest I rather liked the attention for a couple of days, but if that happened every day then the novelty would quickly wear off. Google need to work on the aesthetics in their next iteration.
- And yes, of course, I did walk into a couple of lamp posts and bollards, because I was looking up at the screen and not looking where I was going. If everyone were to suddenly start using Google Glass then we’d be forever bumping into each other. My solution for this particular problem – take a friend out and about with you to steer you clear of obstacles as you walk (thank you to my boyfriend for doing this!).
- It does cost £1,000, which is a large investment for technology that is still in beta. I wouldn’t personally pay £1,000 to get my hands on it at this stage, which is why it’s so great that HolidaysPlease are lending them to customers for free! This loaning offer from HolidaysPlease is the only way (that I’ve heard of) that you can get your hands on a Google Glass to test out. I even work for a large tech company, and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t lend me a set for an entire weekend to use as I please!
Despite some serious frustrations in learning to use it, and making sure it was always connected and fully charged, overall I really liked it. It was a fun toy to play with and it was quite amazing to experience “the future” for myself, instead of just reading endless articles about it (which is what I do with every other piece of revolutionary new tech!). I have never been an ‘early adopter’, as I prefer to make the big investment when all the bugs on v1 have been fixed, and once I know that it’s not just a fad, so having a Google Glass and being perceived as an early adopter for a weekend was great! Yes it looks geeky, but people are fascinated by it. It’s a great conversation starter, trust me.
As I mentioned above, I think a Google Glass would be perfect for travel and I would mainly use it when visiting a new city or country. It wouldn’t form part of my normal day-to-day, as it’s simply not necessary. For Google Glass to really take over and become worth the big investment, I believe it needs to develop a feature that really can’t be done by a smartphone or a smartwatch. So far, most of the Glassware apps are smartphone apps adapted for Glass, and this developer process needs to be reversed in order to make Google Glass indispensable for the masses. But for travellers, explorers and tourists, I think it is absolutely ideal. I would definitely use it again if I had the chance, and I can’t recommend highly enough that you try it out for yourself! HolidaysPlease is kindly offering them to reward customers for free, so they’re not quite as out of reach as you might think!
Guests use Google Glass to tour Abadia's art collection.
Hotels, airlines, and airports are all adopting Glass.
With a slew of new apps, Google’s high-tech specs are fast making inroads into the traveler’s world.
This one short, simple command is quickly becoming the travel industry’s new abracadabra, the launching point for any number of wishes to be granted by Google Glass: instant text translations, directions to the nearest available hotel, photos taken with the blink of an eye or touch of the device’s single button. Although Glass is still in beta testing, it’s quickly being adopted by travelers, hotels, airlines, and airports, experimenting with how to best put the wearable technology to use. Why the interest? By taking the functionality of a smartphone out of our hands and putting it into our line of sight, Glass fuses the information we need with how we see—and perhaps no one needs that more than a traveler.
Apart from speaking to it in Siri-style verbal commandments, Glass is used through apps called Glassware. Just about all the major location-based service apps have remolded to fit the device—OpenTable, Field Trip, Foursquare, TripIt—in addition to a growing list of newcomers. Say you miss a flight connection and get stuck in a city with nothing booked. Hotel Near Me, developed by online booking site Destinia in what it bills as the world’s first booking app, will use GPS to find nearby hotels with vacancies sorted by price, help you choose with visual tours of the properties, and book you a room. Can’t read the road signs to get there? Word Lens will translate them before your eyes, with upwards of 100,000 words in six European languages that it stores on the device. And if touristy sites aren’t your thing, Jetpac, a multi-app developer that scans through nearly every picture on Instagram and aggregates a selection into hyper-local city guides, was recently acquired by Google, with a Glassware application rumored to be in the works. It’s not that these needs can’t be met with a smartphone. But what’s unprecedented about Glass is that it gets people’s heads out of their guidebooks, off of their devices, and into their surroundings. It promises fuller immersion.
On the other side of the equation, the service sector has begun to don Glass too. The Montcalm London Mable Arch hotel, Virgin Airlines, and Copenhagen Airport have all been putting Glass to the test during staff training sessions, lauding its abilities to recognize faces, pull up guests’ information, and keep administrative processes hands-free by negating paperwork. And most importantly, it lets staff maintain eye contact with their customers and keep conversation natural while assisting them, potentially rendering the hospitality industry more hospitable. Other hotels have begun offering Glass as an amenity, lending them out to guests to use on-site or around town Acme Hotel Company in Chicago was the first in April, followed by San Francisco’s Stanford Court Hotel, whose Google Glass Explore Package adds Glass to stays (along with beverages and breakfast), beginning with a tutorial teaching how to use Glass and how not to become a “GlassHole”—a term Google itself has coined for ill-mannered use of the device.
Among the early adopters is the Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine, a 12th-century monastery converted into a magnificent winery and luxury estate in the Duero region of northern Spain. As Europe’s first hotel to do so, the estate offers guests Google Glass to guide them through its extensive art collection, explain the property’s history, and point out the constellations to stargazers. An incongruous fit for such a venerable establishment? Perhaps. Or, if Glass lives up to its goals, perhaps guests will forget about their phones and other devices, let their new guide take over, and enjoy a better view.
This article originally appeared in the October/November print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Heads-Up”)
7. Pink Taco Chicago
Ready all Instagram handles for a visit to this modern Mexican restaurant, where interiors are outfitted with Day of the Dead sugar skulls, eye-catching street art, and plenty of pink. Sample through Baja favorites in orders like the carne asada bowl (with grass-fed steak, cilantro rice, and cotija cheese), green chile chicken enchiladas (with shredded chicken, jack cheese, and tomatillo sauce), or, of course, the venue’s namesake offering: pink tacos (with achiote chicken, arbol salsa, and habanero pickled onions). The ultimate pairing for it all? The Cadillac margarita, a fusion of Patrón Reposado Barrel Select, organic agave syrup, and fresh lime juice that is served alongside a mini bottle of Grand Marnier.
What you need to know about Google Glass
The smart phone has integrated itself into our lives so thoroughly that many of us would feel naked leaving the house without it. A recent IDC survey of smart-phone owners found that 79 percent keep their device with them for all but two of their waking hours. And Google has claimed that Android users check their phones an average of 125 times per day.
This near-obsessive need to stay connected is one of the drivers behind a new category of electronics, known collectively (and somewhat vaguely) as wearables. Many of these devices tether you more tightly to your smart phone—so you can take calls or monitor text messages from your wrist, or feed your phone your recent workout data, such as how many steps you’ve taken or your heart rate. Someday a combination of such gadgets could supplant the smart phone altogether.
It’s hard to predict exactly what devices will eventually come to define wearable tech, but the category has evolved from its experimental phase to a bona fide consumer product category in a hurry. The smart watch company Pebble, for instance, first listed its prototype on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter in 2012—and by 2013 the company’s product was on the shelves at Best Buy.
This past spring, online retailer Amazon created a dedicated store for wearable tech. Google has launched a version of its mobile operating system called Android Wear to speed development of these products, and Apple is widely expected to launch its own health-and-fitness-oriented smart watch.
There’s one device that seems to embody all of the potential of wearable electronics for both convenience and cyborglike strangeness. Google Glass is a wirelessly connected, voice-controlled, head-mounted computer that displays search results, navigation directions, and even recipes in the user’s peripheral vision.
Google is a company that is fond of experimentation, pushing projects such as self-driving cars and high-altitude Internet balloons out into the world long before they are ready for widespread use. Glass launched in 2012 with about 2,000 “Explorers” who pledged to use the device in a wide range of settings. Those included an airline pilot who used Glass to shoot video of his travels for his family to view through Google Plus and a mom who created a video blog of her child learning to walk. Then, this spring, the company started offering Glass to anyone willing to shell out $1,500. That’s when Consumer Reports bought a pair, and we’ve been using and evaluating it ever since.
If Google’s soft launch of Glass was intended to warm the general public to a new product category, the plan might have backfired. It turns out that many people found a head-mounted computer with a front-facing camera goofy-looking—and more than a bit creepy.
Soon, late-night comics were making jokes about it, and some restaurants and movie theaters were banning “Glassholes” from their premises. Google’s experiment had become a phenomenon that surfaced all kinds of questions about privacy and the etiquette of wearable technology before most consumers could even get their hands on the device.
Given all the bluster around Google Glass, we wanted to examine some practical questions. How does it perform as a consumer electronics device? Is it comfortable to wear this thing on your head all day? Does a camera worn on your face actually take decent photographs and video? And was wearing Glass in public going to get our testers punched in the face?
Glass syncs via Bluetooth to a smart phone it then uses that connection or Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet. A small boom that extends from the frame contains a 5-megapixel camera and a viewfinder that sits just above the right eye. Once you set up the device using the MyGlass app and website, you can use Glass with voice commands to make calls, get verbal and visual directions, check your social networks, take photos and videos, listen to music, and run a variety of apps—all while leaving your phone tucked away in your pocket.
Wearing a computer on your face takes a bit of getting used to. Glass feels heavy after a while, and if (like our primary field tester) you already wear eyeglasses, you’ll either have to put up with the device on top of them or buy Glass with prescription lenses. You’ll also need to get used to a whole new user interface.
Typing? Never happens. Instead, you tap the touchpad on the frame or tilt your head backward to wake Glass up. You’ll see a screen displaying the time and the words “OK, Glass.” Say OK Glass out loud or tap on the touchpad. You can then choose from a list of voice commands that scroll down the screen (new ones are added as you install apps) or tap and swipe your way through the menus.
Our testers found that it took some time to learn the gestures, but eventually they became second nature. It was more difficult getting used to the display, which appears to float in the air above your right eye. You can swivel the screen to improve the viewing experience, but at any angle our testers noticed a faint double image when text was being displayed and found it difficult to read in bright sunlight.
Glass isn’t Google’s only foray into wearable technology, or its biggest. At the company’s big developers conference in June, Glass took a backseat to the introduction of the Android Wear OS, which will be used first in smart watches—from LG, Samsung, and others—and eventually in additional wearable gadgets. At the same time, companies including Samsung have filed patents for Glass-like technologies. Five years from now, will we all be wearing head-mounted displays? Maybe. But the devices could find their real home in specialized settings. For example, some surgeons have started using Google Glass to view diagnostic images of a patient in the operating room.
What’s clear is that wearable tech is still in its early days. As computing power migrates into our clothing, jewelry, and, yes, our eyeglasses, engineers are certain to come up with lighter-weight, more convenient mobile technologies for delivering text messages, serving up timely data, and possibly targeting us with location-specific ads. You won’t have to pull out your phone to see the incoming information—and it won’t be as easy to ignore it. Whether that all sounds intrusive or liberating depends on your perspective.
Consumer Reports spent months using Google Glass on a near-daily basis. Here’s what the device lets you do and how it stacks up as a consumer-electronics product in real-world and lab testing.
Take photos and videos
It’s no exaggeration to say it’s as easy as winking an eye to take a photo with Glass because you can set the device up to do just that. Once you get your shot, you can share it to Facebook or your Google Plus circles. Photos are also backed up automatically to your Google Plus album when you are on Wi-Fi. You can dictate captions—Google Glass’ voice recognition worked quite well for us. Taking a video is equally simple. Glass records just 10 seconds by default, but you can extend that by tapping the touchpad near your temple— the device has 12 gigabytes of onboard storage.
Using Glass to make a call isn’t that different from using a Bluetooth headset. The device comes with an optional earpiece that connects with micro USB remove it and you can listen with the device’s built-in bone-conduction transducer, or BCT. The technology, which is used in a number of headphones already on the market, transmits vibrations to your inner ear through your skull. We found that BCT worked adequately for phone calls in a quiet setting but was hard to hear in noisy environments.
If you have a Google Play Music account, you can tap into it to listen to music through Glass. As with any streaming service accessed through a phone, if you’re not on a Wi-Fi network you’ll be burning through your cellular data plan. (You can’t directly access music stored on your phone.) If you do plan to listen to music through Glass, consider paying extra for the company’s stereo earbuds. Neither the bone-conduction technology nor the single earbud that comes with the device provides a good listening experience.
At press time, there were more than 100 apps for Glass, including versions of Facebook, Foursquare, OpenTable, and other mainstays of the mobile life. You can have weather alerts pop up on Glass, check stock listings, and play blackjack or other games. You can also browse ordinary websites with the device, but we found navigation to be clumsy, and it was uncomfortable to read more than snippets of information using the device.
Improve your golf game
The most intriguing apps may be those that go to work when you’re doing something active. Getting driving directions is the most obvious example. A more novel one is GolfSight, which combines GPS data with a database of golf courses to flash the distance remaining to the green. An app called Star Chart identifies stars, planets, and constellations as you gaze at the night sky. Word Lens will automatically translate printed words on road signs or menus by using the Glass camera and Google Translate.
Consumer Reports' lab tests
We took a first look at Glass’ photos and videos in our labs in much the same way that we test phones, pocket cams, and other devices. We also tested sound and the device’s battery life. Note: The version of Glass we tested was the one available in the spring. See our results in the table below.
Pictures shot in bright light were slightly oversaturated, images were noisy, and contrasts lacked depth and dimension. In low-light conditions, images were underexposed.
Glass’ videos images were comparable to its still photos in quality.
Note: It records at a slow 30 fps, making jitter noticeable in panning shots.
We found Glass’ monophonic bone-conduction technology thin and telephonelike. It was adequate in quiet conditions but hard to hear in noisy situations, such as listening to turn-by-turn directions on the highway.
Google claims one day of battery life for “typical” use. We noted about 3 hours of battery life under what we considered continual “moderate” and “heavy” use. The protocols included tasks such as following turn-by-turn directions, recording video, and listening to music.
Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S.
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First Warning Sign in the Global Commodity Boom Flashes in China
(Bloomberg) -- One pillar of this year’s blistering commodities rally -- Chinese demand -- may be teetering.Beijing aced its economic recovery from the pandemic largely via an expansion in credit and a state-aided construction boom that sucked in raw materials from across the planet. Already the world’s biggest consumer, China spent $150 billion on crude oil, iron ore and copper ore alone in the first four months of 2021. Resurgent demand and rising prices mean that’s $36 billion more than the same period last year.With global commodities rising to record highs, Chinese government officials are trying to temper prices and reduce some of the speculative froth that’s driven markets. Wary of inflating asset bubbles, the People’s Bank of China has also been restricting the flow of money to the economy since last year, albeit gradually to avoid derailing growth. At the same time, funding for infrastructure projects has shown signs of slowing.Economic data for April suggest that both China’s economic expansion and its credit impulse -- new credit as a percentage of GDP -- may already have crested, putting the rally on a precarious footing. The most obvious impact of China’s deleveraging would fall on those metals keyed to real estate and infrastructure spending, from copper and aluminum, to steel and its main ingredient, iron ore.“Credit is a major driver for commodity prices, and we reckon prices peak when credit peaks,” said Alison Li, co-head of base metals research at Mysteel in Shanghai. “That refers to global credit, but Chinese credit accounts for a big part of it, especially when it comes to infrastructure and property investment.”But the impact of China’s credit pullback could ripple far and wide, threatening the rally in global oil prices and even China’s crop markets. And while tighter money supply hasn’t stopped many metals hitting eye-popping levels in recent weeks, some, like copper, are already seeing consumers shying away from higher prices.“The slowdown in credit will have a negative impact on China’s demand for commodities,” said Hao Zhou, senior emerging markets economist at Commerzbank AG. “So far, property and infrastructure investments haven’t shown an obvious deceleration. But they are likely to trend lower in the second half of this year.”A lag between the withdrawal of credit and stimulus from the economy and its impact on China’s raw material purchases may mean that markets haven’t yet peaked. However, its companies may eventually soften imports due to tighter credit conditions, which means the direction of the global commodity market will hinge on how much the recovery in economies including the U.S. and Europe can continue to drive prices higher.Some sectors have seen policy push an expansion in capacity, such as Beijing’s move to grow the country’s crude oil refining and copper smelting industries. Purchases of the materials needed for production in those sectors may continue to see gains although at a slower pace.One example of slowing purchases is likely to be in refined copper, said Mysteel’s Li. The premium paid for the metal at the port of Yangshan has already hit a four-year low in a sign of waning demand, and imports are likely to fall this year, she said.At the same time, the rally in copper prices probably still has a few months to run, according to a recent note from Citigroup Inc., citing the lag between peak credit and peak demand. From around $10,000 a ton now, the bank expects copper to reach $12,200 by September.It’s a dynamic that’s also playing out in ferrous metals markets.“We’re still at an early phase of tightening in terms of money reaching projects,” said Tomas Gutierrez, an analyst at Kallanish Commodities Ltd. “Iron ore demand reacts with a lag of several months to tightening. Steel demand is still around record highs on the back of the economic recovery and ongoing investments, but is likely to pull back slightly by the end of the year.”For agriculture, credit tightening may only affect China’s soaring crop imports around the margins, said Ma Wenfeng, an analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant Co. Less cash in the system could soften domestic prices by curbing speculation, which may in turn reduce the small proportion of imports handled by private firms, he said.The wider trend is for China’s state-owned giants to keep importing grains to cover the nation’s domestic shortfall, to replenish state reserves and to meet trade deal obligations with the U.S.No DisasterMore broadly, Beijing’s policy tightening doesn’t spell disaster for commodities bulls. For one, the authorities are unlikely to accelerate deleveraging from this point, according the latest comments from the State Council, China’s cabinet.“Internal guidance from our macro department is that the country won’t tighten credit too much -- they just won’t loosen further,” said Harry Jiang, head of trading and research at Yonggang Resouces, a commodity trader in Shanghai. “We don’t have many concerns over credit tightening.”And in any case, raw materials markets are no longer almost entirely in thrall to Chinese demand.“In the past, the inflection point of industrial metal prices often coincides with that of China’s credit cycle,” said Larry Hu, chief China economist at Macquarie Group Ltd. “But that doesn’t mean it will be like that this time too, because the U.S. has unleashed much larger stimulus than China, and its demand is very strong.”Hu also pointed to caution among China’s leaders, who probably don’t want to risk choking off their much-admired recovery by sharp swings in policy.“I expect China’s property investment will slow down, but not by too much,” he said. “Infrastructure investment hasn’t changed too much in the past few years, and won’t this year either.”Additionally, China has been pumping up consumer spending as a lever for growth, and isn’t as reliant on infrastructure and property investment as it used to be, said Bruce Pang, head of macro and strategy research at China Renaissance Securities Hong Kong. The disruption to global commodities supply because of the pandemic is also a new factor that can support prices, he said.Other policy priorities, such as cutting steel production to make inroads on China’s climate pledges, or boosting the supply of energy products, whether domestically or via purchases from overseas, are other complicating factors when it comes to assessing import demand and prices for specific commodities, according to analysts.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
Credit card debt has plunged — but what if you're still up to your neck?
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Zara owner Inditex to close all stores in Venezuela, local partner says
Inditex, owner of brands including Zara, Bershka and Pull & Bear, will close all its stores in Venezuela in coming weeks as a deal between the retailer and its local partner Phoenix World Trade has come under review, a spokesperson for Phoenix World Trade said. Phoenix World Trade, a company based in Panama and controlled by Venezuelan businessman Camilo Ibrahim, took over operation of Inditex stores in the South American country in 2007. "Phoenix World Trade is re-evaluating the commercial presence of its franchised brands Zara, Bershka and Pull&Bear in Venezuela, to make it consistent with the new model of integration and digital transformation announced by Inditex," the company said in response to a Reuters request.
European Equities: A Quiet Economic Calendar and Low Volumes May Test Support
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China Braces for $1.3 Trillion Maturity Wall as Defaults Surge
(Bloomberg) -- Even by the standards of a record-breaking global credit binge, China’s corporate bond tab stands out: $1.3 trillion of domestic debt payable in the next 12 months.That’s 30% more than what U.S. companies owe, 63% more than in all of Europe and enough money to buy Tesla Inc. twice over. What’s more, it’s all coming due at a time when Chinese borrowers are defaulting on onshore debt at an unprecedented pace.The combination has investors bracing for another turbulent stretch for the world’s second-largest credit market. It’s also underscoring the challenge for Chinese authorities as they work toward two conflicting goals: reducing moral hazard by allowing more defaults, and turning the domestic bond market into a more reliable source of long-term funding.While average corporate bond maturities have increased in the U.S., Europe and Japan in recent years, they’re getting shorter in China as defaults prompt investors to reduce risk. Domestic Chinese bonds issued in the first quarter had an average tenor of 3.02 years, down from 3.22 years for all of last year and on course for the shortest annual average since Fitch Ratings began compiling the data in 2016.“As credit risk increases, everyone wants to limit their exposure by investing in shorter maturities only,” said Iris Pang, chief economist for Greater China at ING Bank NV. “Issuers also want to sell shorter-dated bonds because as defaults rise, longer-dated bonds have even higher borrowing costs.”The move toward shorter maturities has coincided with a Chinese government campaign to instill more discipline in local credit markets, which have long been underpinned by implicit state guarantees. Investors are increasingly rethinking the widely held assumption that authorities will backstop big borrowers amid a string of missed payments by state-owned companies and a selloff in bonds issued by China Huarong Asset Management Co.The country’s onshore defaults have swelled from negligible levels in 2016 to exceed 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion) for four straight years. That milestone was reached again last month, putting defaults on track for another record annual high.The resulting preference for shorter-dated bonds has exacerbated one of China’s structural challenges: a dearth of long-term institutional money. Even before authorities began allowing more defaults, short-term investments including banks’ wealth management products played an outsized role.Social security funds and insurance firms are the main providers of long-term funding in China, but their presence in the bond market is limited, said Wu Zhaoyin, chief strategist at AVIC Trust Co., a financial firm. “It’s difficult to sell long-dated bonds in China because there is a lack of long-term capital,” Wu said.Chinese authorities have been taking steps to attract long-term investors, including foreign pension funds and university endowments. The government has in recent years scrapped some investment quotas and dismantled foreign ownership limits for life insurers, brokerages and fund managers.But even if those efforts gain traction, it’s not clear Chinese companies will embrace longer maturities. Many prefer selling short-dated bonds because they lack long-term capital management plans, according to Shen Meng, director at Chanson & Co., a Beijing-based boutique investment bank. That applies even for state-owned enterprises, whose senior managers typically get reshuffled by the government every three to five years, Shen said.The upshot is that China’s domestic credit market faces a near constant cycle of refinancing and repayment risk, which threatens to exacerbate volatility as defaults rise. A similar dynamic is also playing out in the offshore market, where maturities total $167 billion over the next 12 months.For ING’s Pang, the cycle is unlikely to change anytime soon. “It may last for another decade in China,” she said.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
Hong Kong Exchange’s New CEO Is Put on Cleanup Duty
(Bloomberg) -- The veteran JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker who’s taking the helm at Hong Kong’s exchange has been put on cleanup duty.Chairman Laura Cha has handed Nicolas Aguzin, who takes charge Monday, the task of reviewing the exchange’s practices after a bribery scandal and censure from the regulator, according to people familiar with the matter. The 52-year-old former head of JPMorgan’s international private bank is seen by Cha as having the experience to force a cultural shake-up given his background at a heavily regulated bank, said the people, asking to remain anonymous discussing sensitive issues.Aguzin takes over as the bourse is delivering record earnings. His predecessor, Charles Li, oversaw a doubling of revenue during his decade in charge through acquisitions, loosened listing rules and, most importantly, trading links with mainland China. The easier oversight allowed the listing of Chinese technology giants such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and positioned it as the exchange-of-choice for mainland firms amid tensions with the U.S.But there has also been criticism that investor protections were sacrificed to win business. Over the past years, there has been a steady stream of flareups between the bourse and the regulator over IPO quality, the proliferation of shell companies and whether to allow dual class shares.“The HKEX has done a great job in market development, and has introduced measures to improve investor protection,” Sally Wong, CEO of Hong Kong Investment Funds Association, said in an email. “But it seems that issuers’ voices tend to prevail over that of the investors. We very much look forward to working with the new CEO to see how to strike a more appropriate balance to better safeguard investor interests.”Spokespeople for the exchange and the Securities and Futures Commission as well as Aguzin declined to comment.In a review released last year after the former IPO vetting co-head was arrested for bribery, the SFC discovered “numerous ambiguities” in the Chinese Wall between its listing and business divisions. Other issues highlighted last year include keeping track of share options and following up on complaints on withdrawn IPO applications.Cha had begun to tighten internal checks and balances for senior managers toward the end of Li’s tenure as well as assert more board control over hiring, people familiar have said. The exchange has halted the interactions between its listing and business units, according to the SFC review. Last week, in a joint statement with the SFC, the bourse vowed to better police its frothy IPO market, citing concerns about companies inflating their values, market manipulation and unusually high underwriting fees.Aguzin is expected by the board to prioritize the exchange’s role as a regulator alongside its growth ambitions, people familiar said.David Webb, a former HKEX director, investor and corporate governance activist, is skeptical the bourse will institute any meaningful reforms. “HKEX has, with government approval, lowered its standards to attract business, for example, by listing second-class shares with weak voting rights,” he said in an email. “It shows no sign of raising them again.”Investors have also urged the exchange to set rules requiring company boards to have a lead outside board member or an independent chair, according to Wong. “But it seems that the HKEX is not ready to even bring them up for market consultation.”The government is on board with Aguzin’s appointment, which comes at a fraught time after Beijing has tightened its grip on the city, raising questions about its continued status as an international financial hub.Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui said the three-tiered regulatory system comprising his department, the SFC and HKEX has worked well. Aguzin’s appointment embodies the city’s openness and its role as a gateway between China and the world, he said. “This is exactly what we will pursue.”Further deepening connections to China is seen as key to growth for the bourse, which also faces stiffer competition from mainland exchanges as China opens its financial markets.While Aguzin has worked in Asia for the past decade -- also serving as JPMorgan’s CEO of Asia Pacific from 2013 to 2020 -- he will be the first non-Chinese CEO of a bourse that often needs to deal with Beijing.Cha is well connected in China, having served as vice chairman of China Securities Regulatory Commission. She has signaled that she sees the bourse’s role as serving Beijing’s interests and avoiding competition with the mainland, a person said familiar with the matter said last year.The push toward the mainland is not all welcome in China. Expanding the link to include several benchmark stocks has proved difficult, with one sticking point being whether to include shares like Alibaba Group, which are dual listed and with weighted voting rights.Even so, Cha said at the time of the appointment that Aguzin’s remit will include further strengthening the link to the mainland.Another board member, Fred Hu, said in an interview that “Aguzin is well positioned to take HKEX into the future, to further deepen the connectivity with China but also connectivity with the rest of the world.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
A Quiet Day Ahead on the Economic Calendar Leaves the U.S Economy and FOMC Chatter in Focus
It’s a quiet day ahead on the economic calendar. A lack of stats will leave inflation, sentiment towards the U.S economy, and any FOMC member chatter in focus.
Crypto miners halt China business after Beijing cracks down, bitcoin tumbles
SHANGHAI (Reuters) -Cryptocurrency miners, including HashCow and BTC.TOP, have halted their China operations after Beijing intensified a crackdown on bitcoin mining and trading, hammering digital currencies amid heightened global regulatory scrutiny of them. It was the first time the council has targeted virtual currency mining, a big business in China that accounts for as much as 70% of the world's crypto supply. BTC.TOP, a crypto mining pool, also announced the suspension of its China business citing regulatory risks, while crypto miner HashCow said it would halt buying new bitcoin rigs.
Is Buying Bitcoin Right Now a Smart Idea?
It’s no longer news that Bitcoin’s dramatic fall on Thursday weighed on market sentiments relatively but Willy Woo a top crypto analyst, still believes the curtain call for Bitcoin’s overall upward rally has not occurred yet.
Dollar near 3-month low, weighed by Fed's dovish tilt
The dollar stood near its lowest level in three months against a resurgent euro, and traders pared earlier bets the Federal Reserve may move soon to taper its stimulus though markets were not fully convinced that higher U.S. inflation is transient. Minutes from the Fed's April policy meeting released last week showed a sizable minority of policymakers wanted to discuss tapering bond purchase on worries that pouring more money to an economy on the mend could stoke inflation. Still, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's repeated comments that it is not yet time to discuss a reduction in quantitative monetary easing has led many investors to believe it will be months before the central bank actually tweaks policy.
Summers Says Crypto Has Chance of Becoming ‘Digital Gold’
(Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said cryptocurrencies could stay a feature of global markets as something akin to “digital gold,” even if their importance in economies will remain limited.Speaking at the end of a week in which Bitcoin whipsawed, Summers told Bloomberg Television’s “Wall Street Week” with David Westin that cryptocurrencies offered an alternative to gold for those seeking an asset “separate and apart from the day-to-day workings of governments.”“Gold has been a primary asset of that kind for a long time,” said Summers, a paid contributor to Bloomberg. “Crypto has a chance of becoming an agreed form that people who are looking for safety hold wealth in. My guess is that crypto is here to stay, and probably here to stay as a kind of digital gold.”If cryptocurrencies became even a third of the total value of gold, Summers said that would be a “substantial appreciation from current levels” and that means there’s a “good prospect that crypto will be part of the system for quite a while to come.”Comparing Bitcoin to the yellow metal is common in the crypto community, with various estimates as to whether and how quickly their total market values might equalize.Yassine Elmandjra, crypto analyst at Cathie Wood’s Ark Investment Management LLC, said earlier this month that if gold is assumed to have a market cap of around $10 trillion, “it’s not out of the question that Bitcoin will reach gold parity in the next five years.” With Bitcoin’s market cap around $700 billion, that could mean price appreciation of around 14-fold or more.But Summers said cryptocurrencies do not matter to the overall economy and were unlikely to ever serve as a majority of payments.Summers is on the board of directors of Square Inc. The company said this month that sales in the first quarter more than tripled, driven by skyrocketing Bitcoin purchases through the company’s Cash App.Summers’ comments were echoed by Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, who doubted crypto’s value as a medium of exchange or stable purchasing power, but said some forms of it may continue to exist as an alternative to gold.“Are cryptocurrencies headed for a crash sometime soon? Not necessarily,” Krugman wrote in the New York Times. “One fact that gives even crypto skeptics like me pause is the durability of gold as a highly valued asset.”Summers also said that President Joe Biden’s administration is heading in the “right direction” by asking companies to pay more tax. He argued policy makers in the past had not been guilty of pursuing “too much antitrust” regulation although he warned it would be “badly wrong” to go after companies just because of increasing market share and profits.Returning to his worry that the U.S. economy risks overheating, Summers said the Federal Reserve should be more aware of the inflationary threat.“I don’t think the Fed is projecting in a way that reflects the potential seriousness of the problem,” he said. “I am concerned that with everything that’s going on, the economy may be a bit charging toward a wall.”(Adds Summers is on Square’s board in 8th paragraph)More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
Commerce Secretary tells how to fix the crazy car shortage
So we have auto shortages and billions of dollars of car sales lost, prices gone bananas for used cars and thousands of jobs at risk. What the hell happened? Well COVID yes, but executives made some bad calls too. That plus over-dependence on a fragile and non-U.S.-based supply chain.
Crypto recovery stalls as miners eye exits
Cryptocurrencies fought to find a footing on Monday after even weekend cheerleading from Tesla boss Elon Musk seemed unable offset selling pressure from spooked investors or nerves stemming from a gathering crackdown on the asset class in China. Musk had lent a bid on Saturday by tweeting support for crypto in "the true battle" with fiat currencies. But on Sunday prices slumped as "miners," who mint crypto by verifying transactions, halted Chinese operations in the face of increasing scrutiny from authorities.