Famed Architect’s Lawsuit Against Google Just Got Much More Serious

Eli Attia alleges he wasn’t the only one mistreated by the search giant.

A long-running lawsuit filed against Google by a prominent architect has just gotten much broader.

Last week, the Superior Court of California granted a motion adding racketeering charges to the civil case being pursued against Google by Eli Attia, an expert in high-rise construction. Attia claims Google stole his idea for an innovative building design method – and now he wants to prove that it does the same thing frequently.

Attia’s suit was originally filed in 2014, four years after he began discussions with Google (prior to its reorganization as Alphabet) about developing software based on a set of concepts he called Engineered Architecture. Attia has said Engineered Architecture, broadly described as a modular approach to building, would revolutionize the design and construction of large buildings. Attia developed the concepts based on insights gleaned from his high-profile architecture career, and has called them his life’s work.

Google executives including Google X cofounder Astro Teller came to share his enthusiasm, and championed developing software based on Engineered Architecture as one of the company’s “moonshots.” But Attia claims the company later used his ideas without fulfilling an agreement to pay to license them.

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Attia’s suit names not just Google, but individual executives including founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. It also names Flux Factory, the unit Attia’s suit alleges was spun off specifically to capitalize on his ideas.

Speaking to the San Jose Mercury News, Attia’s lawyer claims Google told Attia his project had been cancelled, “when in fact they were going full blast on it.” Flux Factory is now known as Flux, and touts itself as “the first company launched by Google X.”

Attia’s suit will now also seek to prove that his case is representative of a much broader pattern of behavior by Alphabet. According to court documents, the motion to add racketeering charges hinged on six similar incidents. Those incidents aren’t specified in the latest court proceedings, but Alphabet has faced a similar trade-secrets battle this summer over X’s Project Loon, which has already led to Loon being stripped of some patents.

The idea of racketeering charges entering the picture will surprise many who associate them with violent organized criminals. But under RICO statutes, civil racketeering suits can be brought by private litigants against organizations and individuals alleged to have engaged in ongoing misdeeds. The broader use of racketeering charges has slowly gained ground since the introduction of RICO laws in the 1960s, with some famous instances including suits against Major League Baseball and even the Los Angeles Police Department.

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Google launches its Keep note-taking app for iOS

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Google today launched Google Keep for iOS. You can download the new app now directly from Apple’s App Store.

We’re a bit surprised it took Google this long to debut an iOS app for its note-taking service. Google Keep first launched way back in March 2013 for Android and the Web, meaning the iOS version is showing up 30 months later. Google even brought Google Keep to Android Wear, its smartwatch platform, in June 2014.

Nonetheless, Google says the features Google Keep users have come to expect on Android and the Web are now available to iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users. That means iOS users can search and filter notes by color and type (images, audio, and text), add labels, set time or location-based reminders, and share notes for basic real-time collaboration.

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Here is the full feature list, from the iTunes description:

  • Capture, edit, share, and collaborate on your notes on any device, anywhere.
  • Add notes, lists, photos, and audio to Keep.
  • Organize your notes with labels and colors.
  • Set and forget. Get reminded about a note at the right time or place.
  • Record a voice memo and have it automatically transcribed.
  • Grab the text from an image to help you quickly find that note again through search.

This release isn’t going to convert Evernote or OneNote users, as both have iOS apps with plenty of features. If, however, you’re already using Google Keep on another one of your devices, being able to access your notes on your Apple gadget is a welcome addition. If you’re a Windows Phone user, we wouldn’t hold our breath until Google shows some interest in Windows 10.

While it appears this is a full-featured release, we have asked Google if there is anything missing from the iOS app that is currently available on Android and the Web. We will update you if we learn anything new.

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Google says its voice search system is now more accurate, especially in noisy places

Google voice search on the web.

If you’ve noticed Google doing a better job of understanding what you say using speech recognition on your smartphone lately, you’re not crazy. Google’s voice search has indeed become more accurate, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, the tech company announced today.

“Today, we’re happy to announce we built even better neural network acoustic models using Connectionist Temporal Classification (CTC) and sequence discriminative training techniques,” Google Speech Team members Haşim Sak, Andrew Senior, Kanishka Rao, Françoise Beaufays and Johan Schalkwyk wrote in a blog post today. “These models are a special extension of recurrent neural networks (RNNs) that are more accurate, especially in noisy environments, and they are blazingly fast!”

The new models are working in the Google app for iOS and Android, as well as dictation on Android, which works inside of some third-party apps, the team members wrote.

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Google has reported improvements in voice search not once but twice this year. Clearly the company has been investing in the underlying technology. RNNs are one increasingly popular approach to doing deep learning, a type of artificial intelligence, and Google is widely thought to have a deep bench in deep learning.

But Apple and Microsoft, among others, have also been working to improve their voice recognition capabilities. Meanwhile, Facebook is also doing more in the area, having acquired a speech recognition company, Wit.ai, some months ago.

Speech could become more important as an input to searching the Web in the years to come. Baidu’s Andrew Ng, who is known for his work on the so-called Google Brain, last year predicted that within five years “50 percent of queries will be on speech or images.”

“In addition to requiring much lower computational resources, the new models are more accurate, robust to noise, and faster to respond to voice search queries — so give it a try, and happy (voice) searching!” wrote Sak, Senior, Rao, Beaufays, and Schalkwyk.

Read the full blog post for more detail on how the team managed to get the new performance gains.

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Google Keep finally arrives on iOS for all your note-taking needs

Google Keep iOS Social
Keep – Google’s simple note-taking app – is finally arriving on iOS. It’s the same set of features you’ve come to expect from the Android and Web versions. You can create colored notes and to-do lists, search for information by photo, audio, or text, or add labels to help keep things organized. You can also set reminders based on a time or location so you don’t forget an item from your next shopping list. Of course, it’s connected to the cloud, so your notes will be saved across all your devices, and collaborative functionality means you can share notes with others and work…

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Google brings note-taking app Keep to iPhone

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More than two years after launching Google Keep on Android, the company is finally bringing its note-taking app to iOS: Google rolled out a new version of Keep for iPhones and iPads Thursday.

Like the Android and web version of the app, Keep on iOS allows you to arrange your notes into a sticky-note-like interface. Notes are synced with your Google account so you can access them across devices.

Though not as full-featured as some competitors like Evernote, Google’s free app offers much more than Apple’s new Notes app. Recorded voice memos are automatically transcribed and you can share notes with people you know so others can collaborate on a checklist, for example. Read more…

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Mother Nature teaches Google a lesson

Four successive lightning strikes on a local utility grid in Europe caused a data loss at Google’s Belgium data center. For Google, a company with a self-described “appetite for accuracy” in its data center operations, admitting an unrecoverable data loss as small as 0.000001% — as it did — likely came with a little bit of pain.

The lightning strikes occurred Aug. 13 and the resulting storage system problems weren’t fully resolved for five days. Google’s post mortem found room for improvement in both hardware upgrades and in the engineering response to the problem.

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