Yak-Yak

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Anne Wojcicki

In case you haven’t heard, there is some hot gossip in Silicon Valley. Anne Wojcicki, the newly estranged wife of Sergey Brin, founder of Google, has certainly had her fair share of challenges lately.

First she finds out that her husband of six years has been romantically involved with a Google product manager.

Then last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered her genetic testing company, 23andMe, to immediately stop selling its main product, a $99 “Personal Genome Service.” The company has failed to show that the technology is supported by science.

Brin is currently worth $22.8 billion, according to Forbes. He holds nearly $21 billion worth of Google shares.

Do You Think This Was a Set-Up?

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Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, showing off the next big step in technology, augmented-reality glasses.

Being a publicist, I am always suspicious when I read a story about something that happened “by chance.” People like me make “those chances” happen. Do I really believe that one of the richest men in the world, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, was riding the number 3 subway train downtown on Sunday when a stranger spotted him wearing Google’s augmented-reality glasses? Seconds later, the stranger (Noah Zerkin) tweeted the photo of Brin and the post got picked up on every online tech site, newspaper, and entertainment TV show within the next 24 hours.

This is what Noah Zerkin (@noazark) January 21, 2013, said on Twitter. “I just had a brief conversation with the most powerful man in the world. On the downtown 3 train. Nice guy.” Then he posted his photo. Zerkin is an interactive installation consultant who is a self-professed augmented-reality enthusiast who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Puh-leeze!

For those of you who don’t know about Google’s augmented-reality glasses, it is really worth researching because it is going to be the next big thing in technology. The glasses feature a translucent rectangle (the size of a postage stamp) that transmits data directly into your eye. Swiping motions can be made on the side of the headset to navigate the app interfaces. You can take hands-free photos, videos, and other soon-to-be announced tasks. The glasses are truly mind-boggling. A few years from now we will all be using them. They are slated to go on sale in 2014 for around $1,400. By that time, Google will have figured out some very practical uses for this device.

Meanwhile, I think I am the only one who feels the subway incident was a staged event. I have had my own share of PR “coincidences.” I staged Mohammad Ali to show up at a BSR (USA) sales rep meeting at the Chicago Hilton Tower Suites so he could throw air punches with retail customers. We pretended that he was having dinner downstairs with friends during our meeting. Through some miraculous last minute offer to show him the product line that was being introduced, he agreed to come up to the suite to say hello to the audience. The entire shtick was arranged weeks in advance and cost BSR lots of moola to get the champ to agree to the action-packed photo-op. Some retailers still have their photos displayed on the walls of their offices (or retirement homes).

Or how about the time we accidentally-on-purpose, lost a prototype for a new hand-held game for my electronics client in a New York City taxi cab during Toy Fair. The owners of the company offered a huge cash reward if anyone found and returned the one-of-a-kind mock up. Instantly, the brand became the talk of the entire convention.

I could go on and on about publicity stunts, but then I would be staging my own career death. That’s all for now.

An Update On Self-Driving Cars

The other night when he appeared on stage at the 92nd St.Y, along with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher of the Wall Street Journal’s AllThingsDigital, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, hinted that his company’s self-driving cars will be on the road earlier than originally thought. It appears that a number of government officials in California, Nevada, Florida, Hawaii, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and the District of Columbia, all want to lead the way to make these cars legal. Some states already have legal rights to test them. Schmidt said Google “is very interested in leading the way most people will get around.”

This is a real mindblower.

Google began testing the self-driving cars in 2009 along side engineer Sebastian Thrun, who had previously worked on the technology with the Stanford University faculty. Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are cheerleading Thrun to perfect the technology. Yes, the cars drive themselves with the aid of lasers, cameras, and other gear. Schmidt revealed that Google’s autonomous cars have already racked up more than 100,000 miles on the road.

It is very possible that five years from now, when many of us will need them most, we will be able to take advantage of this wondrous invention. Just imagine the implications. We will be more independent than ever before, going where we want to go, when we want to go there. Schmidt said that autonomous vehicles are safer than human drivers. “This technology could prevent accidents, help disabled people get around, and reduce traffic congestion and gas consumption.”

General Motors and Toyota are working closely with Google to hasten the development of the technology.

Swisher added that she took a test run and it was a totally weird sensation. “I found myself breaking to stop and wanting to put my hands on the steering wheel. It is going to take some to get used to this.” Schmidt summed up this advancement in technology saying that “humans driving cars was a big mistake. This is the way it was meant to be.”

Swisher must feel Google is getting closer to introducing the self-driving cars to the marketplace because soon after the 92nd St.Y discussion, the Wall Street Journal released an update on it. My comment is, “This may be a good time to get older.”