Everyone knows that Google is a big deal. Each year, news of Google’s new acquisitions makes headlines across the world and across the web, stunning analysts and everyday consumers alike.
From little start-ups to longtime titans of industry, so many companies have been picked up that users often forget (or don’t realize) that their favorite app or software is now part of the Google machine.
For some, this just means better service, better quality, and better integration on mobile platforms; for others, watching a beloved site or service get stripped for parts and silently assimilated into the inner workings of Google’s infrastructure can be disappointing to say the least.
For better or worse, Google is making waves not just online, but in nearly every facet of our lives. Here are five companies you didn’t know Google owns and what that means for you:
Social networking, mapping, and up-to-date traffic, all rolled into one app? Sounds too good to be true, but that’s precisely what Waze is all about.
Waze helps drivers help themselves by providing an outlet for folks to warn other drivers of potential delays and hazards by means of tweet-like posts. This information then coalesces into a living map that shows drivers in the area just how long it will take to get from Point A to Point B, which roads to avoid, and even the location of speed traps.
It isn’t hard to see why Google would want to snatch these guys up. With close to a billion downloads of Google Maps from Google Play alone, adding the social networking power of Waze to the application gives users the unparalleled quality of Google’s navigation interface,
In addition, the benefit of sourcing information about travel times and level of traffic from drivers on location is hard to beat. And with the recent launch of Google Now, Waze data is seamlessly integrated into Google Maps’ auto-updates for an even more intuitive traffic alert system.
Home automation is still a relatively new concept for many consumers. The idea of sending a text message to your alarm system because you forgot to arm it on the way out the door—much less having your fridge text you when Timmy sneaks some cake in the middle of the night—still sounds like something from The Jetsons.
But Nest, founded by Tony Faddell and Matt Rogers, the same guys who brought us the iPod, is all about making your home smart, from thermostats to alarm systems. Nest was picked up in January 2014 by Google in its quest to branch outside the worldwide web and into your living room.
Acquiring Nest helps Google build their stockpile of resources for total home integration with Android devices that are already making everything from turning on the outdoor lights for a party to setting the timer on the sprinklers easier than updating your Facebook status. Expect big things from this merger: with Nest’s innovation and Google’s infrastructure, we are stepping into a brave new world.
Google almost acquired rival company Yelp back in 2011, but picked up Zagat instead after the deal fell through.
Prior to merging with Google, Zagat.com was a subscription-based service, offering its vast cache of knowledge only to those who paid a premium. Zagat membership is now free—as long as you sign up with Google+, that is.
But whether you subscribe to Zagat or not, Google has tightly and seamlessly integrated Zagat reviews and information into its standard Google search, so even casual users benefit. The novelty and prestige may have taken a backseat, but picking a restaurant for that special occasion has just become much easier.
A short-lived but popular gesture recognition program, Flutter was acquired by Google in October 2013. Due to its native integration with applications like YouTube, Chrome, Netflix and Pandora, Flutter was a prime candidate to springboard Google’s gesture recognition ventures moving forward.
Users of the original Flutter app need not worry that it’s merely been stripped for parts—the download can still be found here.
As with a few other apps, merging with Google bodes well for both Flutter veterans and newcomers alike. As Google engineers hone and develop gesture recognition for more and more programs, it will become a smoother, more universal experience across the board.
This is actually just one of about a half dozen or more robotics companies bought up by Google in early December 2013, along with Redwood Robotics, Meka Robotics, Holomni and others. Boston Dynamics is best known for the DARPA-funded BigDog, essentially an automated four-legged pack mule designed to carry gear for soldiers over terrain too rough for vehicles.
What does Google intend for these companies? It isn’t too clear yet, but whether they are planning on putting these firms to use in vamping up their manufacturing capital in preparation for the Google Car, or if they have bigger plans in mind (humanoid robots?), picking up so many robotics companies suggests that Google is gearing up for some big, exciting things.
Whether it results in overall better quality or if an app or service is simply assimilated into the infrastructure, Google’s acquisitions are taking tech in bold new directions. As its influence pervades every aspect of our lives, more and more companies are sure to follow. And whether we embrace it or not, this snowball-effect is pushing the boundaries of what we thought possible, and that’s a very exciting thing.