Ever wondered what it would be like if your dog had a Twitter account? Well, Mattel is here to answer that question for you … kind of.

The Mattel toy company has announced a new product called Puppy Tweets that will send a randomly selected message from 500 preset ones to a Twitter account.  The dog wears a pendant on its collar that sends a signal to a USB receiver you plug into your computer, and whenever the dog moves or barks, a Tweet will be sent to the dog’s Twitter account.

While it sounds cute, its novelty will quickly wear off.  If your dog is scratching, you might get a Tweet about it chasing its tail.  If your dog is very active, you could quickly find a Twitter stream that is just flooded with messages of your dog being active.  Do you really need to know every time your dog moves a muscle?  Seeing as I have four dogs, imagine if I had one of these on each of them … ugh.  It would be a never ending stream of messages as one of them always seems to be active.

Perhaps it would amuse a child, but until the technology actually has some sort of connection to what it does for real, we’re going to suggest you pass.

Categories: Twitter   

Barbie is one of those brands that just won’t die, and to celebrate her 125th career, she’s getting into a new job with a big future: computer engineer.

Mattel, the company behind the Barbie line, held a contest to select Barbie’s 125th career, and the winner was that of a computer engineer.

Pictured here (click the image for a massively larger picture), Computer Engineer Barbie comes with a highly appropriate outfit for her new job.  To create an authentic look, Barbie designers worked closely with the Society of Women Engineers and the National Academy of Engineering to develop the wardrobe and accessories for Computer Engineer Barbie. Wearing a binary code patterned tee and equipped with all the latest gadgets including a smart phone, Bluetooth headset, and laptop travel bag, Computer Engineer Barbie is geek chic.

“All the girls who imagine their futures through Barbie will learn that engineers — like girls — are free to explore infinite possibilities, limited only by their imagination,” says Nora Lin, President, Society of Women Engineers. “As a computer engineer, Barbie will show girls that women can turn their ideas into realities that have a direct and positive impact on people’s everyday lives in this exciting and rewarding career.”

At the same time, Barbie’s 126th career was announced to be that of a news caster.  Apparently Barbie can’t hold down a job.

While I understand this isn’t normal StarterTech-fare, I worked as a toy correspondent in the 1990′s, and the toy industry still holds a soft spot in my heart … forgive me this one, folks.

Categories: News   

Wonder what it’s really like at the Vancouver Olympics?  Jump on Twitter to find out.

The 2010 Winter Olympics are in full swing now in Vancouver, and if you’re curious what is on the minds of the athletes, it seems Twitter will be the best place to find out.

It shouldn’t really be a big surprise that the popular microblogging service is being used by the athletes; it seems like they would be the perfect demographic for such a tool.  Finding them might have been a bit difficult though, and then there is always the question if they are who they really say they are.  Luckily Twitter thought to take care of both jobs for you.

If you head over to the @verified/olympians page, you’ll currently find about 100 Olympians who have all had their accounts verified by the company. Not all of them are from Team U.S.A., so don’t think this isn’t for everyone.  As a matter of fact, the Swiss team has an official account and is quite talkative.  I have no clue what they’re saying, but they do seem to post quite a bit!

The athletes seem excited to be sharing the thrill of the event with everyone and are posting information like weather conditions, photos of their commutes to and from the venues, what’s going through their heads before they compete and so on.

So if you’re tired of pre-packaged inspirational videos from the televised coverage already, be sure to check this page out, and, no, you don’t even need to have a Twitter account to enjoy it!

Categories: Twitter   

Labs have long been a way for Google to add new features it is still testing out to existing products. The most notable version has been in Gmail that has constantly released new tools to the Labs system before pushing them out to the live version of the site. Well, now Google Maps is joining in the fun with at least one feature it should have always had.

Google announced today that the Maps system finally has a Labs area with some nifty new features for you to try out.  (click the image for a larger view)

To get to the new tools, log into your Google account, go to the Maps page, and towards the top right you will see a green lab beaker, click on that and you will get your selections. While some seem silly, like adding “Beta” under the page name, the Drag ‘n’ Zoom is something I have wanted in Maps for ages. Once enabled, click on the Zoom icon and then simply click and drag a box around the area you want to zoom in on. I’m already in love, and this has been needed for ages.

There are some nifty other new features worth checking out, but Drag ‘n’ Zoom is a must have.

Categories: Google   

It seems someone finally told Facebook that users don’t like to be locked into a browser window when they want to instant message with their friends, family and co-workers.

Facebook Chat launched some time ago, but it hasn’t exactly been the most useful tool as it required you to use the browser all the time to check which friends were online and interact with them.  Now the king of the social networks has teamed up with AIM, formally named AOL Instant Messenger, to take its chat capabilities out to the desktop.

The only problem with this whole idea is … well … it’s AIM.  It’s like the forgotten child of the instant messaging crowd.  Luckily Facebook has announced that it will be opening up its Chat to any instant messaging client that wants to use it, so hopefully we’ll see it pop up soon in an actually useful IM client.

Categories: Communication, Facebook   

Google has always had an obsession with how fast the Internet moves, and now it has decided to do something about it in a physical sense by bringing out its own Gigabit Internet connections.

Currently, if you have a 50 Mbs fiber connection to your home, your paying an outrageous fee for it, and you are one of the lucky few. Google wants to change all that, and its putting its money where its mouth is. The company announced today that it will be launching a trial program to bring 1 Gbps (approx. 125 Mbs) to cities around the United States.

Called Google Fiber for Communities, the new program is accepting applications now from government officials, but if you are a citizen, you can also nominate your town.  The video below explains it in greater detail, but we could be looking at a major game changer in the way Internet is delivered to our homes.

Categories: Google   

Google announced its newest social media service today, Google Buzz, and it might just be the social service Google was always meant to create.

Google has had two problems historically with social media services.  The first being they bought a service such as Jaiku (a Twitter clone) or Dodgeball that just didn’t quite fit into their corporate image correctly.  The second problem has been with services such as Orkut, which, while popular in several countries, just never caught in the United States.

Google Buzz may very well change all of that because it is built from the ground up by Google, and it integrates with pre-existing services that the company has had success with such as Gmail, Google Reader, Google Maps, YouTube and so on.

The new service is a part of your Gmail account, and by simply clicking on the link in your sidebar, you get a social lifestream service not unlike what you find at FriendFeed.  The difference is that Google already knows you so well, it can auto populate your friends for you with those you talk to the most in Google Talk and Gmail.  (click the images for a larger view)

Once in you can start adding your information from various social sites. The number of services is limited at this time, but there are sure to be more added.

Once you’ve got your services imported, you can begin sharing things with your friends, and seeing what it is they have to share with you. Comments can be left on any item, so the service becomes social onto itself.

The magic of Google Buzz happens in your Gmail inbox, though.  As opposed to other services that require you to go out to their site to see if follow-up comments have been posted, or e-mail you a link to tell you there are new comments, the actual Buzz is delivered to your inbox and you can interact with it from there.  A Buzz icon will be displayed next to the mail so you will be able to easily discern what is normal mail and what is a Buzz.

When out and about, you will also be able to use a mobile version of Buzz by simply going to the Google home page from your browser, click the Buzz icon and the service will locate you via your phone’s GPS.  Once logged in, you can see what friends have buzzed about that is near you on an improved version of Google Maps.

Google has a history of posting short videos that expertly describe its new products, so here is the one for the main part of Google Buzz.

And the one for the mobile aspects.

So there you have it. Will it succeed? Who knows, but I personally think Buzz has the best shot of any Google social service yet of gaining some traction.

Big thanks to Jo from Jo’s Cafe for the screenshots!

Categories: Google   

Google has a very mixed history with attempting to make its services more social, but if the company was to integrate directly into its popular Gmail service, would that help things along?

Google may be the master of Web searches, and popular with the e-mail crowd, but one thing it has never mastered is social media.  How many of you are even familiar with its full-fledged social network, Orkut?   It’s been around since 2004, but over 80 percent of its traffic come from Brazil and India, it has failed miserably just about everywhere else.  What about Latitude?  It’s still around, and you can see which friends and family are near you, but it is like the forgotten child of the Google family of services.

Even with its failures to get anything serious going with social media, that doesn’t mean that Google won’t keep trying, and according to The Wall Street Journal, the company is about to try it again, but this time it will be part of Gmail.  Following in the footsteps of Facebook and Twitter, the new feature is said to be a status update system that will allow you to update your status for selected friends to see, and they will be able to do likewise.  You will also be able to view a timeline of their status updates, ala Twitter.

The question is if people will use it, but it probably has a higher probability of use due to the fact people leave their Gmail accounts open all day long in a browser tab.  You won’t have to go to a special page to interact with it, and that could be a key to getting more people to use it.  Will it draw in new users?  Unlikely, because if all they are looking for is that kind of interactivity, then they will go to a site that specializes in it.

It might be a fun distraction, but I doubt you will ever see this supplanting Facebook and Twitter as the kings of status updates.

Categories: Google   

Lets face it, a lot of people watch the Super Bowl just for the ads, so don’t you wish you could cut the game out of the equation?  Well, thanks to the Internet, that wish is a reality.

Every year there is at least one ad during the Super Bowl you wish you could watch again, and thanks to the wonders of the Internet, that has been a possibility for some years now.  As Super Bowl XLIV happens today in Miami, you’ll even be able to see the ads online as they air, or shortly thereafter.

We’ve gathered up a short list of seven sites that will fulfill all your Super Bowl ad needs.

CBS Sports: It only makes sense that the network airing the game would also allow you to watch the ads online.  You can sort the ads by quarter in which they aired or by advertiser name.

FanHouse: The ads will be shown live, and while you wait you can revisit the ads from Super Bowl 43.

Hulu: Watch the best ads from 2009.

NFL.com: See all the ads from 2009.  No word if the site will post the ones from 2010, but it is probably a safe bet it will.

SuperBowl-Ads.com: Revisit archives of the past 12 years of Super Bowl ads.

SuperBowl-Commercials.org: This site brings you all the latest ads and news surrounding them, as well as archives of ads from Super Bowls of the past.

YouTube Ad Blitz: YouTube will be posting the commercials as they air, and after the last one has played, you’ll be able to vote for your favorite.  The winner will be features on the YouTube main page as the champion.

We’re probably going with YouTube as it appears it will be the quickest.

Categories: Video   

If there was ever any doubt that Twitter is beginning to play an important part in all of our lives, it was pretty much dispelled this week when the National Football League (NFL) unveiled its official Twitter hashtag for the Super Bowl.

Twitter has become the hub for conversation of current events, and the best way to track those conversations is via the use of hashtags.  You simply add something like “#topic” to your post (minus the quote marks), and then people can track that conversation via the search feature, or by clicking on the word to see a page of results about it.

One of the problems with hashtags has been the Twitter community coming up with a uniform tag for any given event.  You’ll see multiple tags going for an event like the Apple iPad launch, so some of the conversation may get lost.  With Super Bowl XLIV being this Sunday, the NFL decided that it would remove some of that confusion for you by launching the site Tag The Super Bowl where it unveiled the “official” hashtag of the game, #SB44.  (thankfully they didn’t go with #SBXLIV)

Tweets and images on Flickr that are tagged with #SB44 will appear on the tag page, so you’ll get some “official” NFL glory for your efforts.

While it seems a little silly at first, it makes some sense instead of everyone trying to get their own hashtag to be the one everyone adopts.

Categories: Social Networking, Twitter   
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