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They are a-changing

They are a-changing

Google’s been on a roll. This last month, they’ve pushed out so many nifty little changes and announcements, it’s become hard to keep track of them.

Google TV, the company’s attempt to take its search and video technology on to televison sets, made a return after months of speculation. Google announced that some new TVs would come with Google TV functionality built in, allowing you to easily search online videos and pay-per-view content on your set. For TVs without, the company will sell a small set-top box that you can plug in.

Its iTunes-esque music service, Google Music, is expected to roll out by the end of the year. This will reportedly feature both a Web browser-centric store, as well as an app for the Android platform. Google will offer the choice of downloading songs you’ve purchased or putting them in online storage, from where you can stream them to any device of choice.

Google Wave reappeared in the form of a new, immensely fancy feature—real-time collaborative editing in Google Documents. When more than one person is working on a shared document or presentation, the changes they make can be seen the instant they’re made. It was this chaotic colourfulness that made Wave fun to use for its all-too-brief existence. Its usefulness is disputable, though, as it leads to more confusion than anything else. But nothing conveys a sense of busy activity than multiple cursors furiously spewing out text from all corners of a document, so on the whole we’re glad to see the feature being resurrected thus.

Other small changes include an ability to turn off Gmail’s “conversation threads", tweaks to Orkut’s “Groups of Friends" feature, and a more streamlined interface for its location service Latitude.

Google also set the blogosphere abuzz last week with its prototype “self-driving" cars that can navigate traffic without human assistance. On the company’s official blog, engineer Sebastian Thrun disclosed that the cars, which use “video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to ‘see’ other traffic", have successfully covered over 140,000 miles without any major mishaps (Indian roads would probably be the car’s ultimate challenge). Google believes the technology can help cut carbon emissions and reduce the number of accidents on the road.

But front-and-centre of Google’s new deck of cards has been Google Instant. The service was introduced last month, but it made its way to India only sometime last week. Here’s how it works. Remember that little smug statistic below the search bar everytime you search—the one that claims your search was completed in 0.18 seconds or so? Instant is that statistic in practice. Search results appear as you begin to type, the page updating in hyperkinetic frenzy. It’s quite impressive, though it may slow already slow computers to a crawl. It makes tweaking searches extremely simple, as you can see changing results instantaneously. Last week, the service was expanded to video, blogs and news searches as well.

Google has a great demonstration video for Instant, as it tries to keep up with the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s Subterranean homesick blues as the song plays in the background. This even sparked a brief music-video Internet meme, with Google Instant-inspired videos now available for frantic songs such as Billy Joel’s We didn’t start the fire or Tom Lehrer’s Elements. I, for one, would be very pleased to see an Instant video for a Baba Sehgal or Apache Indian song. Or better yet, Shankar Mahadevan’s woefully overplayed Breathless.

Play Things is the official tech and time-pass blog of Mint. Drop in for a dose of cool tech gossip and online merriment

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