Google christened its new Los Angeles office on Thursday night with a party that featured top executives, L.A. glitterati and a speech by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
The company let visitors wander the 100,000-square-foot complex, a set of buildings designed by architect Frank Gehry and recently refitted with oodles of Googlesque flourishes. That means cafes, snack and juice bars, game rooms, a top-flight gym and plenty of whimsicality.
Ron Gorodetzky didn't aspire to work at Google, or any other tech giant for that matter.
Gorodetzky was a start-up man -- having worked at the news-sharing site Digg in its early days before going on to be a co-founder of the video site Revision3 and Fflick, a company that analyzed what people were saying about movies on Twitter to build a movie recommendation site.
Google may not have been on Gorodetzky's radar -- but he and Fflick were on Google's.
Just six months after Gorodetzky and three friends from Digg founded Fflick, the start-up sold itself to YouTube, which is owned by Google.
Now Gorodetzky is on a team of engineers (along with his three buddies from Fflick) helping to integrate YouTube into the ever expanding and crucially important Google+.
"Until working at Google I had only worked at start-ups and I never really wanted to work for a big company," he said. "But Google is a big company that is good at being a big company."
Google+ is the company's bid to take Google's top existing products and make them more social, easier to share and easier to consume. The effort has also brought an end to a number of products that haven't fit in with the company'snew vision.
YouTube is one of Google's top products. What will a Google+ friendly YouTube look like? Gorodetzky wouldn't go into detail. But we have seen an early step in that integration with the recent launch of Hangouts (group video chats) which can be started directly from YouTube.
"What we're doing is taking our expertise with social networking and applying it to YouTube," Gorodetzky said. "There's a little bit of ramp-up when you get into Google. There's a decade worth of technology at YouTube that you have to ramp up to. But we've been prototyping ideas and were starting to apply our technology to YouTube."
In Mona Simpson's eulogy for her brother Steve Jobs, the writer revealed that the Apple visionary was still ironing out one product problem while he lay ailing in a hospital room: the lack of a proper iPad stand that could be used while in bed.
Jobs had touched upon a source of complaints for iPad owners, who have noted that despite plenty of options for propping the popular tablet on desks and other hard surfaces, few good options exist for placing the iPad in one's lap or bed.
One Southern California company is trying to change that. Mounting company Vantage Point of Santa Fe Springs has created the BeanPad for the iPad 2, which started to ship to consumers and retailers in late October. The squashy plastic-pellet-filled product can be placed on an uneven surface like the arm of a couch or someone's lap, Vantage Point CEO Don Burns said.
When attached to the BeanPad's holder, the iPad can rotate 90 degrees. The BeanPad sells for $60.
The Delta II rocket launched at 2:48 a.m. PDT on Friday from Space Launch Complex-2 at the base, located northwest of Santa Barbara. It was carrying a $1.5-billion weather satellite that’s armed with new state-of-the-art sensors that will observe the ozone, atmospheric temperatures, snow and vegetation coverage.
According to NASA, the satellite, known as the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, or NPOESS Preparatory Project, is a crucial first step in building the next-generation weather system.
"NPP is critical to our understanding of Earth's processes and changes," NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said in a statement. "Its impact will be global and builds on 40 years of work to understand our complex planet from space."
The satellite was built by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., with components made by Raytheon Co. in their El Segundo facilities.
United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., manufactured the Delta II rocket with a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-27A engine, which is made in Canoga Park.
The satellite is slated to provide weather information for military and civil users.
Mary Glackin, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Assn.’s deputy undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere, said it will "make America a more weather-ready nation."
Broadcom Corp. announced Monday that it agreed to purchase NetLogic Microsystems Inc. for about $3.7 billion.
Irvine-based Broadcom designs and supplies semiconductors to telecommunications and consumer electronics companies with its chips ending up in a list of popular gadgets, such as Nintendo's Wii, Apple's iPhones and iPads and an array of phones running Google's Android operating system.
The company has purchased many smaller firms over the years, as The Times' David Sarno noted in a February profile of Broadcom.
At $50 a share, NetLogic's shareholders would be getting a premium in the takeover deal (NetLogic closed Friday at a price of $31.92 per share). The purchase has been approved by both company's boards of directors but still needs U.S. and international regulatory approvals.
Shares of NetLogic soared on the news. They were recently trading at $47.98, up $16.07, or 50%, from their Friday closing price.
NetLogic, based in Santa Clara, also builds computer chips, working on "multi-core and knowledge-based processors," as well as technology used in next-generation wireless base stations used by telecom companies.
The deal, which the two firms said they expected to complete in the first half of 2012, would help Broadcom expand further into the infrastructure side of the wireless industry and also bring its products to market more quickly.
The start-up builds apps, called Echoecho, for Research In Motion's BlackBerrys, Apple's iPhone, Google's Android, Nokia's Ovi operating system and soon Windows Phone 7, that enable users to share their current location with friends.
"We've all been in a situation when we're near our friends but can't actually find them," Echoecho's co-founder and chief executive, Nick Bicanic, said in a statement. "We wanted to create an app for that and we wanted one that people would actually use -- that doesn't destroy the battery life of your phone, broadcast your location to everyone in the world or force you to join yet another social network."
Such an app made a lot of sense, Bicanic said, because most people already carry around their "real social network" in the contact lists in their smartphones. "That's the social network that really matters," he said.
Once in the app, a user's location is plotted on a map and they can message anyone in their phone's address book and ask them where they are. After a contact responds, they are both plotted on the map, even if the person responding hasn't downloaded the Echoecho app. From there, users can continue to chat by text message, pick a meeting place on a map and share their location with other friends.
Aside from its L.A. office, Echoecho has an office in London, where PROfounders Capital is based.
Pilots may never have to give passengers score updates on baseball games again.
At least not on Southwest Airlines flights.
Westlake Village-based Row 44 Inc., an in-flight broadband Internet provider for Southwest, said it signed a deal with Major League Baseball to deliver live streaming video and audio broadcasts to passengers' smartphones, laptops, tablets and other Wi-Fi enabled devices.
Southwest is currently in the process of wiring its entire fleet with Row 44’s in-flight broadband system. The carrier is offering the service for a introductory rate of $5.
With the deal, Major League Baseball has become the first sports league to offer in-flight live streaming video of its games, Row 44 said.
“This partnership is the first in a series that underscore Row 44's commitment to creating a unique broadband entertainment experience for our airline partners and their customers," Howard Lefkowitz, the company’s chief commercial officer, said in a statement.
Row 44, named after the last row on a DC-10 commercial jet, uses a network of telecommunications satellites belonging to Hughes Network Systems. By tapping into Hughes' network, Row 44 has the potential to provide worldwide Internet access.
The company has more than 40 employees spread across offices in Westlake Village, Las Vegas and Lombard, Ill.
"The integration of live baseball games into Row 44's in-flight broadband entertainment experience ensures our traveling fans won't have to miss a pitch," Bob Bowman, chief executive of Major League Baseball advanced media, said in a statement.
Photo: Row 44 Chief Executive John Guidon, left, and President Gregg Fialcowitz on the wings of the company's 1950 Grumman Albatross Seaplane that it uses for equipment testing. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times
A 330-pound humanoid robot was electronically awakened aboard the International Space Station this week, beginning its life as an astronaut's assistant.
The robot named Robonaut 2, or R2, will help with routine tasks such as holding tools and vacuuming air filters. The robot was sent up on space shuttle Discovery in February, but it wasn't powered up until now.
Check out the video above as R2 gets unpacked.
Clad in a gold helmet with a shiny metallic visor, R2 has a torso, two arms and two five-fingered hands. For now, it sits on a fixed pedestal inside the space station.
"Next steps include a leg for climbing through the corridors of the space station," NASA said.
Once fully built, NASA envisions R2 assisting astronauts during space walks as they make mechanical fixes to the outside of the space station.
R2 was jointly developed and built by NASA and General Motors engineers at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. But some of the engineering know-how and robotic innards came from California, such as HRL Laboratories in Malibu, JR3 Inc. in Woodland and Cirexx International Inc. in Santa Clara.
If you want to find out more about R2 or talk to it, NASA has established a Twitter account for the robot. Take a look here.
Apple's iPad has led to the creation of hundreds of thousands of apps available in the iTunes App Store.
There are a ton of music related apps: slick keyboards, entertaining drum simulators and a growing selection of games that play off of music and rhythm.
And while that's all good and fun, musicians are increasingly looking to the iPad in creative ways to make serious music as well. The Gorillaz are a fine example of this, using more than a dozen different iPad apps to create their album "The Fall" in December. But the majority of those apps often seek to recreate one specific instrument.
Tabletop, a new iPad app from San Francisco-based start-up Retronyms, is taking a different approach.
Retronyms has built what amounts to a full-on digital version of on electronic musician's studio with keyboards, synthesizers, drum machines, samplers and sequencers, as well as various effects that can be used in isolation or in concert with one another to produce full-on songs entirely within the one app.
While Tabletop isn't the first to bring this idea into fruition -- savvy iPad owners can create songs in Apple's Garage Band -- it is one of the most customizable music making apps out there thus far.
What Retronyms is trying to do with Tabletop is create a studio, an environment in which users will eventually be able to bring digital recreations of real-world hardware into the app as they see fit.
"We see Tabletop as more of a platform than just an app," said Keith Pishnery, who heads up artist outreach for Retronyms. "Normally when you buy an app, the app doesn't always change that much over time.
"What we really want Tabletop to be is an environment that people will use and stick with for a long time. We really do see it as a continually expanding platform that we can expand and add more devices to. And then musicians can route the devices in the app together however they want, and create new combinations and new music."
Among the devices available in Tabletop upon its release are Gridlok (an Akai MPC-style sampler can record from outside devices connected to the iPad), the M8RX: Tone Matrix (a sequencer similar to a Monome), the RS3 keyboard, the Mr. O master output, four-channel mixers and eught-channel mixers, the Spinback (a turntable) and the Recorder M2, which handles in-app recording.
Retronyms worked with electronic music producers and DJs such as S.F-based Exillon and L.A.-based Paul Salva, who heads up the independent label Frite Nite, to create demo songs for the app and help with Tabletop's sound design.
More of that sort of collaboration with musicians is coming, but Retronyms is also hoping to work with companies that make real-world hardware to create virtual versions of their devices in Tabletop, Pishnery said.
"The app as it exists now isn't even close to what we want Tabletop to be in the long-run," he said. "We're working on building more devices and hoping to add a lot of new stuff in the next couple months. And hopefully we'll have some stuff from some third-party partnerships coming soon too.
"We've already hit some of our goals and we're able to hit the top 10 in the music category within the first day and hit the top 3 in less than a week and we haven't even had TableTop out for a month yet. But we've got a lot more planned. We're just getting started."
Salva, who contributed some sound design, demo songs and helped with testing Tabletop, stopped by The Times' offices earlier this week to show off how he uses Tabletop and to talk a bit about how he sees tablets such as the iPad fitting into what musicians do as producers and in live performances.
Check out the video below to see Tabletop in action and to hear what Salva has to say, and let us know what you have to say in the comments. Are you a musician? Do you use any music making apps on the iPad? Is the iPad as a music maker a fad or a revolution?
[Correction 7:32 p.m.: An earlier verision of this story incorrectly said Tabletop's Recorder in-app device only recorded from an iPad's headphone jack. It actually records any in-app sounds, while recording from external devices and instrumens is handled by Tabletop's Gridlok sampler.]
Hawthorne-based rocket venture Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, is planning to send a rocket into space carrying a capsule that will dock with the International Space Station later this year. It is a mission that takes the company one step closer to cashing in on a $1.6-billion contract with NASA.
In a statement, SpaceX revealed that the space agency has approved a mission in which its Dragon space capsule would dock with the space station.
"NASA has given us a Nov. 30, 2011 launch date, which should be followed nine days later by Dragon berthing at the ISS," the company said.
SpaceX makes the Dragon capsule and 18-story Falcon 9 rocket at a sprawling facility in Hawthorne that once housed the fuselage assembly for Boeing Co.'s 747 jumbo jet. However, the hardware is put on a big rig and sent to Cape Canaveral, Fla., for launches.
Last December, SpaceX became the first private company to blast a spacecraft into Earth's orbit and have it return intact. The unmanned flight was intended to show NASA that SpaceX could handle the task of carrying cargo into space.
If it pulls off a trip to the space station, it will be the clear frontrunner take over the responsibility of running cargo missions and possibly carrying astronauts to the space station for NASA now that the space shuttle is retired.