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Category: Google | May 13, 2014
As a student growing up in France, I was always looking for ways to improve my English, often with a heavy French-to-English dictionary in tow. Since then, technology has opened up a world of new educational opportunities, from simple searches to Google Translate (and our backpacks have gotten a lot lighter). But it can be hard to find time and the means to practice a new language. So when the Web Speech API made it possible to speak to our phones, tablets and computers, I got curious about whether this technology could help people learn a language more easily.
That’s the idea behind Spell Up, a new word game and Chrome Experiment that helps you improve your English using your voice—and a modern browser, of course. It’s like a virtual spelling bee, with a twist.
We worked with game designers and teachers to make Spell Up both fun and educational. The goal of the game is to correctly spell the words you hear and stack them to build the highest word tower you can—letter by letter, word by word. The higher the tower gets, the more difficult the word challenges: You’ll be asked to pronounce words correctly, solve word jumbles and guess mystery words. You can earn bonuses and coins to level up faster.
Spell Up works best in Chrome on your computer and on Android phones and tablets. (It also works on iPhones and iPads, but you’ll need to type rather than talk.) Whether you’re just learning English or you’re already a pro, check it out! And if you’re a teacher, we encourage you to try it out in your classroom.
Posted by Xavier Barrade, Creative Lead and Polyglot, Creative Lab London
Category: Google | May 9, 2014
Here’s our look back at the stories and searches that made this week, from lightsabers to Lewinsky.
Mint juleps and margaritas
This past week people across the country celebrated several long-held traditions and some newer ones. With the 140th “Run for the Roses” on Saturday, there were more than 2 million searches on the subject of the Kentucky Derby, including research on [kentucky derby time] and [kentucky derby horses]. (We’re partial to derby fashion.) Then, on Sunday, nerds everywhere celebrated what’s come to be known as “Star Wars Day,” thus named because the date lends itself to the pun “May the Fourth be with you.” According to search data at least, the unofficial holiday has been getting bigger every year. And finally, Monday’s Cinco de Mayo inspired lots of pranks, jokes, and more than a few people looking up the history of the holiday.
Red carpet moments and capital celebs
At this week’s Met Gala, the annual fundraising event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Beyonce and Blake Lively turned heads and inspired searches. And though searchers were interested in the White House Correspondents Dinner, it was old, not new, Beltway gossip that dominated this week. In a “Vanity Fair” essay, Monica Lewinsky broke a 10-year media silence to talk about life since the affair that made her a household name. Search interest in Lewinsky subsequently jumped to the highest point ever since 2004 (the time period for which data is available) as people looked for more information on the original story as well as [lewinsky now].
On the issues
The phrase “Bring Back our Girls” became a rallying cry to raise awareness about a group of nearly 300 school girls abducted in Nigeria in April. A number of leaders, including Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, have raised their voices in support of the campaign.
On a completely different viral note, Jimmy Kimmel hit the streets asking people “what is gluten?” This now viral YouTube video has left many people laughing at the responses, as well as looking up the definition of gluten, and related issues such as celiac disease, for themselves.
Giving thanks to teachers and moms
We hope you took time to thank a teacher for Teacher Appreciation Week. More than a hundred thousand searches on the topic indicate that people around the country were showing their gratitude. And finally, Mother’s Day is this Sunday, and many people were looking up gifts—from more traditional treats like flower deliveries and chocolate-covered berries, to creative DIY ideas and even poems. For those of you whose moms are teachers as well (like mine), this is an even better time to show them you care.
Posted by Emily Wood, Google Blog Editor, who searched this week for [rolf and daughters nashville] and [how tall is prince]
Category: Google | May 6, 2014
Austin is home to some of the best barbecue in the country, a killer live music scene, and an energy that can match any other city in the world. It’s no coincidence, then, that it’s also home to some of the most creative entrepreneurs out there, which is why we’re pleased to welcome Capital Factory, an Austin-based incubator and co-working space for startups, to the Google for Entrepreneurs Tech Hub Network. The city’s thriving startup community and deep bench of engineering talent, combined with its natural creativity and eclecticism, make it the perfect place to expand.
Capital Factory is the eighth space to join the Network, a group of partner organizations across the U.S. that does everything from hosting accelerator programs for talented developers to providing desks for entrepreneurs. Google for Entrepreneurs provides funding to all the hubs and give them access to mentorship opportunities and Google products.
In just over six months, the Tech Hub Network is already having a dramatic effect on entrepreneurs around North America. Seventy-one percent of startups say their hub is having a significant impact on their growth, and companies from the Network have raised more than $50 million and created 1,200 jobs since becoming members. Just last month, we hosted a Demo Day for these hubs, where 10 startups raised millions of dollars to help grow their businesses.
To give these entrepreneurs an even greater boost going forward, starting today anyone who works in one of the eight tech hubs or Google’s Campus London and Tel Aviv will be able to work for free from the other member spaces when traveling. This will give startups a home base when they’re on the road, and the chance to spread and exchange ideas from city to city.
Not too long ago, Google was just a small startup in a garage. Now that we’ve grown up a bit, we want to give others a place where they can work on their ideas, and feed off each other’s creativity and ingenuity. Capital Factory is no exception. So, get your boots on, Austin entrepreneurs—we can’t wait to see how your growing startup community plays its part in keeping Austin weird.
Posted by John Lyman, Head of Partnerships, Google for Entrepreneurs
Category: Google | May 6, 2014
As a former high school math teacher, I know all too well that teachers spend a ton of valuable time doing things other than teaching—waking up early to grade quizzes, collecting and returning piles of paper assignments, and battling copy machine paper jams. But with today’s technology it doesn’t have to be this way. Many teachers and professors have found ways to use technology to be better educators and avoid busy work. We spent the past year working closely with many educators to understand the systems they use to simplify their workloads, so they can get back to doing what they love—teaching.
Today, in honor of Teacher Appreciation Day, we’re announcing a preview of Classroom, a new, free tool in the Google Apps for Education suite. It helps teachers create and organize assignments quickly, provide feedback efficiently, and communicate with their classes with ease. Classroom is based on the principle that educational tools should be simple and easy to use, and is designed to give teachers more time to teach and students more time to learn.
With Classroom, you’ll be able to:
- Create and collect assignments: Classroom weaves together Google Docs, Drive and Gmail to help teachers create and collect assignments paperlessly. They can quickly see who has or hasn’t completed the work, and provide direct, real-time feedback to individual students.
- Improve class communications: Teachers can make announcements, ask questions and comment with students in real time—improving communication inside and outside of class.
- Stay organized: Classroom automatically creates Drive folders for each assignment and for each student. Students can easily see what’s due on their Assignments page.
We know that protecting your students’ privacy is critical. Like the rest of our Apps for Education services, Classroom contains no ads, never uses your content or student data for advertising purposes, and is free for schools.
Starting today, teachers and professors can apply for a preview of Classroom. Based on the requests we receive, we’ll be inviting a limited number of educators to try Classroom in about a month. By September, Classroom will be available to any school using Google Apps for Education. Since we want to make sure Classroom plays well with others, if you’re a developer or partner, sign up to learn more about integrating with Classroom.
We’ve been working with more than a dozen pilot schools and universities to try out Classroom and provide feedback—and we can’t thank them enough. We can’t wait to hear your feedback, and to work together to make Classroom even better.
Posted by Zach Yeskel, Product Manager, Classroom
Category: Google | May 2, 2014
From matters of the heart to matters off the court, join us on a trip to a galaxy far, far away for our look back at this week’s search trends.
Searching for romance
It’s the end of George as we know him. Saturday, word got out that longtime bachelor George Clooney was engaged to his girlfriend, Amal Alamuddin. Alamuddin is a respected human rights lawyer in Britain, but she’s not—or wasn’t—a household name, and many people turned to search to learn more about the woman who captured Clooney’s heart. While they were at it, they looked for information on actress Talia Balsam, who was married to George in the early 90’s (for those of you paying attention, that’s pre-Doug Ross!). In other celebrity couple news, Prince Harry and Cressida Bonas have reportedly broken up. So, if you’re disappointed that George is off the market, there’s still hope for women around the world wishing to marry a royal.
A historic week for the NBA
NBA commissioner Adam Silver made league history this week when he fined Clippers owner Donald Sterling and banned him from the league for recent comments. Millions of searches followed, and terms like [adam silver comments], [adam silver sterling], [adam sterling clippers] immediately climbed more than 1,000 percent.
The fetch is strong with this one
On Wednesday, we wore pink in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Tina Fey’s “Mean Girls.” The movie that gave us “fetch” was the subject of so many searches, quizzes (searches for [mean girls quiz] were up 350 percent) and retrospectives that even Cady Heron might have trouble adding them up. And though rumors of a [mean girls reunion] (up 850 percent) are apparently false, that can’t exactly be said of another movie on searchers’ minds this week: “Star Wars.” A photo revealing the cast of J.J. Abrams’ “Episode VII” showed original stars Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and more seated alongside new faces like John Boyega, Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver. The new cast members were on the top of the search charts quicker than the Millennium Falcon could make the Kessel Run. (Fun fact: searches for [bill weasley] were also on the rise; “Episode VII”’s Domhnall Gleeson played him in the “Harry Potter” movies.).
Actress Emma Stone made headlines this week when she faced off against Late Night’s Jimmy Fallon in an epic lip syncing battle; searches for [emma stone fallon] climbed 2,200 percent. But while we can’t deny Emma’s spoken-word skills, we’ve got a soft spot for two other playful phrases that made the zeitgeist this week. On Saturday, searchers learned that [zonkey] was not an adjective for how you feel after a red-eye, but actually a rare zebra/donkey cross born last week in Mexico. And [it’s gonna be May] was trending Wednesday after Organizing for Action’s Barack Obama Facebook page used the meme-y caption on a photo showing POTUS with Justin Timberlake. Just to bring this week full circle, the Know Your Meme entry on “It’s gonna be May” includes a reference to… “Mean Girls.”
Happy Friday, and we’ll see you next week.
Posted by Emily Wood, Google Blog Editor, who searched this week for [derby day history] and [andre movie]
Category: Google | Apr 30, 2014
Every year, phones and tablets get better, and more of you are starting to use your mobile devices not just to view, but also to create and edit content. And while the Drive app is a convenient place to store your stuff, we want to make it easier for you to quickly find, edit and create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations on the go. Starting today, you can download new, standalone mobile apps for Docs and Sheets—with Slides coming soon. Need to find a spreadsheet? Go to the Sheets app. Need to create a document? Go to the Docs app. They’re all right there at your fingertips.
When you open the new apps, you’ll see your most recently edited files, which means less time searching and scrolling.
The apps also come with offline support built in, so you can easily view, edit and create files without an Internet connection. Now, if you have a brilliant idea for a best-selling novel while traipsing through the Amazonian rainforest (or you know, something more probable, like during flight takeoff)…no problem. You can jot down your idea in the Docs app on your phone, even when you’re offline.
You can get the apps on Google Play [Docs] [Sheets] and in the App Store [Docs] [Sheets]. If you don’t have time now, over the next few days you’ll be prompted to download the apps when you go to edit or create a document or spreadsheet in your Drive app. And of course, you’ll still be able to use the Drive app to view and organize all of your documents, spreadsheets, presentations, photos and more.
So enjoy the Amazon—we’re looking forward to buying that novel someday. And in the meantime, just remember: even if a crocodile eats your phone, your files are safe in the cloud!
Posted by Brian Levee, Product Manager
Category: Google | Apr 29, 2014
In February, we asked K-12 students across the country to doodle about the one thing they’d invent to make the world a better place—and we were amazed by their curiosity and creativity. For many students, environmental issues were top of mind, resulting in impressive and artistic doodles depicting water and air purification or turning garbage into flowers. Another common theme was really smart robots; they clean up garbage or help students with their homework. Others created possible solutions for solving obesity or eliminating world hunger. And we saw some thoughtful ideas around time travel and goggles that help you see the world from another person’s point of view so you can truly understand them.
From more than 100,000 creative ideas, we’ve selected the best one from each state with the help of our guest judges. Today, we’re celebrating the 50 state winners—little ones just six years old to high school seniors—at their schools from Fort Paine, Ala. to Moorcroft, Wyo., and from Anchorage, Alaska to Plant City, Fla. We’ll reveal the winning artists in front of their classmates, teachers and parents and, in some places, their local mayors or elected officials.
Now it’s your turn to cast a vote for your favorite Doodle. Starting today through May 9, you can go to the Doodle 4 Google site to help select one winner for each age group. On May 21, we’ll host all 50 state winners at our headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., where we’ll reveal the five age group finalists as well as the national Doodle 4 Google winner.
Then, for the first time ever, the national winner will get to hang out with our team in Mountain View and animate their doodle. You’ll see the spiffed-up version on our homepage on June 9. For now, don’t forget to vote!
Posted by Ryan Germick, Doodle Team Lead
Category: Google | Apr 28, 2014
Jaywalking pedestrians. Cars lurching out of hidden driveways. Double-parked delivery trucks blocking your lane and your view. At a busy time of day, a typical city street can leave even experienced drivers sweaty-palmed and irritable. We all dream of a world in which city centers are freed of congestion from cars circling for parking (PDF) and have fewer intersections made dangerous by distracted drivers. That’s why over the last year we’ve shifted the focus of the Google self-driving car project onto mastering city street driving.
Since our last update, we’ve logged thousands of miles on the streets of our hometown of Mountain View, Calif. A mile of city driving is much more complex than a mile of freeway driving, with hundreds of different objects moving according to different rules of the road in a small area. We’ve improved our software so it can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously—pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn. A self-driving vehicle can pay attention to all of these things in a way that a human physically can’t—and it never gets tired or distracted.
Here’s a video showing how our vehicle navigates some common scenarios near the Googleplex:
As it turns out, what looks chaotic and random on a city street to the human eye is actually fairly predictable to a computer. As we’ve encountered thousands of different situations, we’ve built software models of what to expect, from the likely (a car stopping at a red light) to the unlikely (blowing through it). We still have lots of problems to solve, including teaching the car to drive more streets in Mountain View before we tackle another town, but thousands of situations on city streets that would have stumped us two years ago can now be navigated autonomously.
Our vehicles have now logged nearly 700,000 autonomous miles, and with every passing mile we’re growing more optimistic that we’re heading toward an achievable goal—a vehicle that operates fully without human intervention.
Posted by Chris Urmson, Director, Self-Driving Car Project
Category: Google | Apr 25, 2014
From Lupita topping the People 50 to LaMarcus dropping 46, it’s time to look again at the top trending items on Google Search.
The games we play
The NBA and NHL playoffs both kicked off in earnest this week, and searches for hockey and basketball topics lit up the scoreboard. In fact, the Chicago Blackhawks occupied a post in Google’s Hot Searches list every day but one since last Friday. The defending Stanley Cup champions are playing a tight (and, as of Wednesday, tied) series against the St. Louis Blues; they also drew controversy this weekend when stories emerged of the Blackhawks taunting Blues captain David Backes after a hit that got the Hawks’ Brent Seabrook suspended.
In the NBA, it was all about the big plays. Searches for the OKC Thunder’s Kevin Durant peaked after he made a ridiculous four-point play while (and I don’t use this word lightly) literally falling out of bounds on Tuesday. The last time Durant came close to this level of search interest was on January 30, after a 12-game 30+ point scoring streak. And the Portland Trail Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge was on fire on the court and on Google, scoring more than 40 points in his team’s first two playoff games against the Houston Rockets… on the road—making him one of only three players ever to do so. On a more somber note, searches were also high for longtime sideline reporter Craig Sager, who revealed on Sunday that he has been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
Moving to the diamond, [pine tar] was the top searched topic overall on Wednesday after Yankees’ starting pitcher Michael Pineda was caught red-handed (and sticky-necked) using the substance, a violation of MLB rules, while elsewhere in the American League the Angels’ Albert Pujols hit his 500th career home run. And during Monday’s Boston Marathon (a trending topic both this week and last), Meb Keflezighi became the first American to win the race in more than 30 years, making him a “breakout,” with nearly 1,000% increase in search interest over the last year on Google Search.
Stranger than fiction
Alongside searches for Easter and Earth Day, there were a few unconventional celebrations this week. Dyngus Day, a Polish-American holiday taking place on Easter Monday and similar to Poland’s Śmigus-Dyngus and Hungary’s Vízbevető, was a top topic in search on Monday (O.K., so it wasn’t the top topic, but it was top of mind for many). Traditionally celebrated by boys throwing water over girls, in the U.S. Dyngus Day celebrations include parades, traditional foods and polka music. Whatever its origins, interest in Dyngus Day has been growing steadily the past two years since barely registering on Search in 2012.
What the… powdered alcohol?! That’s what some people were thinking when they searched for [Palcohol], a powder that turns water into alcoholic drinks. It was approved by U.S. regulators earlier in the month, but this week the decision was rescinded. And when a 15-year-old boy caught a ride from San Jose, Calif., to Hawaii in an airplane wheel well, stunned searchers came to Google looking for images of wheel wells to understand how someone might survive such a feat—especially without the beverage cart.
Posted by Emily Wood, Google Blog Editor, who searched this week for [chekhov gun first act] and [hedgehogs in costumes]
Category: Google | Apr 24, 2014
For 21 years, Take Your Child To Work Day has helped kids understand what moms and dads do all day after they leave the house. And even if kids don’t realize it at the time, it also serves an important role in helping youngsters learn about what kinds of jobs they could do when they grow up. Unfortunately, not all kids are lucky enough to get these opportunities.
Today, we’re giving kids everywhere a chance to “visit” some of the world’s most exciting workplaces. Working with Forbes, Connected Classrooms is hosting 18 virtual field trips to places like the Georgia Aquarium, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Stanford National Lab and the Chicago Bulls locker room, using Google Hangouts. Professionals from all walks of life will discuss their day-to-day roles and how they got there, so students—regardless of budget or geography—can be exposed to a wide range of careers and get excited about their future.
The full list of events is available on Forbes’ site, but here’s a preview of what you can expect:
We hope you’ll tune in at 6am PT for the first career hangout, and check out Connected Classrooms throughout the day for new, live field trips.
Posted by Lisa Jiang, Google+ Education Partnership Lead