This week on the web, a presumably happy couple had a live-streamed wedding, exchanging rings selected for them by the Internet crowd. Google released amazing Street View photos that weren't taken on streets, and Apple tried to catch up with improvements to its own mapping app. Airbnb debuted a new product, and Pinterest revealed plans to lessen the gap between seeing something and holding it in your hot little hand. The future came closer, as Google announced that driverless cars will soon be stuck in traffic on Virginia roads. Facebook's Messenger app got its first game, and the jury is still out about whether that is a good or a bad thing.
Crowd-Sourced Weddings for Exhibitionists
Most people are content to share their wedding ceremonies with their friends and families. For some people, that's not nearly enough. They crave having hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people watching as they take their vows.
If living your life as if you were on a reality TV show appeals to you, then you may want to cheer on the couple that won a competition for a live-streamed wedding, sponsored by the wedding website The Knot. Not only was their wedding live-streamed online, but every element of the wedding had been crowd-sourced. Thousands of people voted to choose the bride's and bridesmaids' dresses, the bride's make-up and hair style, the flowers and stationery, the honeymoon destination (Tahiti), and even the rings. Nothing says "I love you" more than a ring picked out by thousands of strangers.
Go Diving Without Getting Wet
Google Street View is a useful tool for daily life, say when you are trying to find your destination in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Now Google has gone a step further and loaded images into Street View of places that most people will never get to on their own. As part of World Oceans Day, Google released stunning images taken by divers underwater and by photographers zip-lining through the jungle.
Arm-chair travelers can get an amazing underwater view of humpback whales off the coast of the Cook Islands, or join scuba divers to gaze at the bizarre-looking mola mola, the world's heaviest bony fish,
Google's project, though, is about more than presenting breath-taking images of exotic locations. There's a serious aspect too. By mapping the ocean, Google hopes to create a baseline record that can be used to monitor changes in the future.
Apple Takes on Google Street View
Meanwhile, Apple is working on improving its Apple Maps service with the hope of competing against Google's Street View. The company announced that it will be "driving vehicles around the world" to get new data to improve its service. Apple hastened to assure us that it will be protecting privacy by blurring out license plates and faces. That's probably a jab at Google, which was forced to do the same after being criticized for showing too much potentially identifying information in its original Street View photos.
Apple Maps was a disaster when it was first launched in 2012. It's gotten both more accurate and more popular since then. New features, such as enhanced transit and walking information, could boost its user base even more. Google, though, appears to still have the lock on cool pictures of exotic sea creatures.
Give the Gift of Sleeping in a Spare Bedroom
Airbnb must really be going mainstream now because it started selling gift certificates. These should make good gifts for your friends and acquaintances who are already enthusiastic Airbnb users. Just make sure the recipients aren't the kind of people who think a vacation is no fun unless it's spent poolside, with a cocktail in hand, at a four-star luxury resort.
The certificates can be used anywhere in the world and never expire. They are easy to buy and give, making them a convenient choice for people who need to get a gift at the last minute.
Pinterest Encourages Instant Gratification
Pinterest wants to help you get what you want and, of course, make more money for itself by doing so. The picture-pinning company showed mock-ups at a recent conference of an Action button that it may soon be incorporating into its site that will let users buy products without having to leave the page. If you are looking at a recipe, for example, the Action button could let you get the ingredients delivered to your door in time to whip up the dish for your next meal.
This could be a huge money-maker for Pinterest as well as for the companies that will actually be selling the goods. Pinterest is like one big wish list, full of gorgeous photos that fan the flames of consumer lust. Making it easier to buy the enticing products on display should set the virtual cash registers ringing.
Will Driverless Cars Get Headaches in Traffic Jams?
Google is getting ready to unleash its driverless cars onto public streets soon. The company had previously announced plans to send its cars out on California roads, albeit with human drivers on board to satisfy state regulations. Now it has announced that Virginia will join California -- along with Florida, Michigan, Nevada, and Washington, D.C. -- as a state that will welcome the cars.
Virginia, like California, will require that a human be in each car to take over in case of an emergency. Virginia will also require that the cars go through a testing process before they can be taken out on the road. Once the cars are certified, they will be sent out on Northern Virginia roads that are among the most congested on the East Coast.
Dealing with traffic jams will be a great real-world test of the driverless cars' abilities. But will the cars be able to duplicate human emotions? Maybe the cars will have to learn how to get headaches, curse under their breath, and give drivers in other cars -- or the empty space where drivers used to be -- the finger.
Facebook Helps You Waste Even More Time
Facebook's Messenger app just got its first social game, a Pictionary-like game called Doodle Draw. Until now, Facebook had not allowed games on the app, wanting to focus instead on content. But Facebook told TechCrunch that it now wanted to open the platform to all developers to see what they would create, and then decide what to do next.
The game sounds like fun, but TechCrunch warned that it could become spammy, similar to many games on the main Facebook site, because players get rewards in the game when they get other people to play.