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Celebrate National Park Week with Street View and the Cultural Institute

Category: Google | Apr 16, 2016

The National Parks have famously been called “America’s Best Idea.” The 400+ parks, preserves, historic sites and other areas in the National Park System are a source of national pride, home to hundreds of species of flora and fauna, a place for researchers to study and discover—and above all, destinations for explorers and adventurers of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.

This week (April 16-24) marks National Park Week, and we thought we’d do our part in celebrating the occasion by helping you get one step closer to visiting these amazing places. With Street View in Google Maps and the Cultural Institute, you can park hop your way through 50 states, from sea to shining sea.

Start at the southern tip of Florida with the Everglades—the largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S. and a UNESCO heritage site. Go deep inside the longest known cave system in the world at Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, or take in the sun and the scene at Fire Island National Seashore. On your way, wave to Lady Liberty in New York.

Next stop: The homes of some of our U.S. presidents. Peek inside Truman’s desk, or compare and contrast the Lincoln home’s refined hall chairs with Mary Lincoln’s wooden commode. Then take a trip to see battle sites and memorials including Gettysburg and Valley Forge National Historic Sites.

Tour locations and objects from civil rights history, including the homes of activists Frederick Douglass and Maggie L. Walker. With Google Expeditions, you can see the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in 360 degrees, then explore photos from its archives in the Cultural Institute.

Group of Tuskegee Airmen, Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

Now it’s time to hit the road and ride off into the west. There’s a little something for everyone this side of the Mississippi. Get some “me time” on some of Glacier National Park’s 700 miles of trials. Gaze at the puffy white clouds above Grand Teton National Park, you can see why they call this Big Sky country. And no visit to the parks is complete without Yellowstone, which was first designated as a park “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people” back in 1872.

Once you’ve seen Old Faithful erupt, it’s time to marvel at the crystal colors of the Petrified Forest and the amazing rock formations of Natural Bridges Monument. Take in the Seussian world of Joshua Tree, or the lunar landscape at Death Valley.

For some shade, head for California’s forests. Sequoia is home to the largest tree in the world, while the Redwoods boast the tallest. Either way, even in Street View it’s hard not to relax as you look up at the sun filtering through the branches.

Compare the real thing with artistic interpretations from the National Park Service Collection on the Google Cultural Institute

Climb up El Cap, then cool off in the mist at some of Yosemite’s famous falls. Or head north for the icy blue waters of Crater Lake in Oregon and the glacier-capped peaks of Olympic National Park a stone’s throw from Seattle.

Last but not least, take a virtual ferry to Alcatraz, home of the infamous federal penitentiary on the San Francisco Bay. There, you can see objects from the famous June 1962 escape from Alcatraz, including the fake heads the escapees put in their beds to cover their absence. Luckily, you’re also free to go beyond the bars to learn about the first lighthouse on the West Coast and see Street View of the island’s gardens, tide pools, bird colonies, and bay views. Welcome to the Rock.

Whether you visit in person or online, we hope you #FindYourPark this week!

Posted by Emily Wood, Managing Editor
Managing Editor


How technology can help us become more sustainable

Category: Google | Apr 14, 2016

We want to create technology that helps millions of others understand our changing world and live more sustainably—whether it’s connecting people with public transit routes, or using the data that powers Google Earth to help you see if your roof is good for solar panels. In honor of Earth Day this month, we’ve gathered together some of the ways Google can help you reduce your everyday emissions and learn more about preserving our world.

Monitoring forests and wildlife
Google Earth satellite technology gives scientists and environmentalists a way to measure and visualize changes of the world on both land and water. This technology can have great impact on monitoring endangered animal populations around the world. For example, with the help of Global Forest Watch, powered by Google Earth Engine, scientists at the University of Minnesota are suggesting that wild tiger populations may rebound by 2022, due to the efforts to restore tiger habitats in key regions.

Anyone can now view tiger conservation areas (in orange and yellow above) using Global Forest Watch.
Going solar
Looking to generate clean energy savings with solar power on your home? Check out Project Sunroof, a solar calculator that estimates the impact and potential savings of installing solar on the roof of your home. Taking Google Earth imagery and overlaying annual sun exposure and weather patterns, Sunroof is able to assess viable roof space for solar panel installation, estimate the value of solar and savings based on local energy costs, and connect you with providers of solar panels in your area.

As of this week, Sunroof expanded to 42 states across the U.S. (from 10 states in December), which makes imagery and data available for a solar analysis to 43 million rooftops. We’re also working with organizations like Sierra Club and their Ready for 100 campaign to help analyze the solar potential of cities across the U.S.

Project Sunroof shows you the solar potential of your home and city, allowing you to realize its renewable potential. The image on the right shows how much sunshine Denver, CO residents can capture with solar.
Measuring air pollutants
For the past few years, Google Earth Outreach and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have been working together to map methane leaks from natural gas pipelines under our streets. Since methane is a very potent greenhouse gas (GHG), even small leaks can add up to big emissions that can hurt our climate. By attaching methane analyzers to select Street View cars, we’ve driven more than 7,500 miles and have mapped 4,200+ leaks in 10 cities. What we found ranges from an average of one leak per mile (in Boston) to one leak every 200 miles (in Indianapolis), demonstrating the effectiveness of techniques like using plastic piping instead of steel for pipeline construction. We hope utilities can use this data to prioritize the replacement of gas mains and service lines (like New Jersey’s PSE&G announced last fall). We’re also partnering with Aclima to measure many more pollutants with Street View cars in California communities through this year.

Anyone can explore the maps at

Technology is crucial to increasing energy efficiency, raising climate change awareness, and sustainability efforts. To learn more about what you can do to help, take a moment to explore our Google Earth Outreach site, where these tools and more are described in depth.

Posted by Rebecca Moore, Engineering Director, Google Earth, Earth Engine & Outreach

Rebecca Moore Engineering Director Google Earth, Earth Engine & Outreach


Creating a world that works for everyone with Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities

Category: Google | Apr 12, 2016

More than a billion people have a disability. And regardless of the country or community they live in, the gaps in opportunity for people with disabilities are striking: One in three people with a disability lives in poverty. In places like the United States, 50 to 70 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed; in developing countries that number increases to 80 to 90 percent. And only 10 percent of people with disabilities in developing countries have access to the assistive devices they need.

Last spring, kicked off the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities, an open call to global nonprofits who are building transformative technologies for the billion people around the world with disabilities. We’ve been amazed by the ideas we’ve received, coming from 1,000+ organizations spanning 88 countries. We’ve shared a handful of the organizations we’re supporting already—and today we’re excited to share the full list of 30 winners.

Infographic listing all grantees

The organizations we’re supporting all have big ideas for how technology can help create new solutions, and each of their ideas has the potential to scale. Each organization has also committed to open sourcing their technology—which helps encourage and speed up innovation in a sector that has historically been siloed. Meet some of our incredible grantees below, and learn more about all 30 organizations working to improve mobility, communication, and independence for people living with disabilities at

The Center for Discovery, $1.125 million grant
Power wheelchairs help provide greater independence to people with mobility limitations—allowing them to get around without a caregiver, or travel longer distances. But power chairs are expensive and often not covered by insurance, leaving many people limited to manual wheelchairs.

With their grant, the Center for Discovery will continue developing an open source power add-on device, the indieGo, which quickly converts any manual wheelchair into a power chair. The power add-on will provide the mobility and freedom of a power chair for around one-seventh the average cost, and will allow people who mainly use a manual wheelchair to have the option of using power when they need it. The device design will be open sourced to increase its reach—potentially improving mobility for hundreds of thousands of people.

A young man using the indieGo to greet friends.

Perkins School for the Blind, $750,000 grant
Turn-by-turn GPS navigation allows people with visual impairments to get around, but once they get in vicinity of their destination, they often struggle to find specific locations like bus stops or building entrances that GPS isn’t precise enough to identify. (This is often called the “last 50 feet problem.”) Lacking the detailed information they need to find specific new places, people tend to limit themselves to familiar routes, leading to a less independent lifestyle.

With the support of, Perkins School for the Blind is building tools to crowdsource data from people with sight to help people navigate the last 50 feet. Using an app, people will log navigation clues in a standard format, which will be used to create directions that lead vision-impaired people precisely to their intended destination. Perkins School for the Blind is collaborating with transit authorities who will provide access to transportation data and support Perkin’s mission of making public transportation accessible to everyone.

Joann Becker walking near bus stop

Perkins School for the Blind employee, Joann Becker, travels by bus. It can be hard for people with visual impairments to locate the exact location of bus stops and other landmarks.

Miraclefeet, $1 million grant
An estimated 1 million children currently live with untreated clubfoot, a lifelong disability that often leads to isolation, limited access to education, and poverty. Clubfoot can be treated without surgery, but treatment practices are not widely used in many countries around the world.

Miraclefeet partners with local healthcare providers to increase access to proper treatment for children born with clubfoot. They will use support to offer support to families via SMS, monitor patient progress through updated software, and provide extensive online training to local clinicians. To date, Miraclefeet has helped facilitate treatment for more than 13,000 children in 13 different countries; this effort will help them significantly scale up their work to reach thousands more.

Miraclefeet helps partners use a simple, affordable brace as part of the clubfoot treatment. Here, a doctor in India shows a mother how to use the miraclefeet brace.

Ezer Mizion and Click2Speak, $400,000 grant
People with high cognitive function but impaired motor skills often have a hard time communicating—both speaking or using standard keyboards to type. Augmentative and alternative communication devices (AAC) help people more easily communicate, but are often unaffordable and restricted to specific platforms or inputs. Without an AAC, people may have difficulty maintaining personal relationships and professional productivity.

Ezer Mizion is working with Click2Speak to build an affordable, flexible, and customizable on-screen keyboard that allows people to type without use of their hands. With the grant from, Ezer Mizion and Click2Speak will gather more user feedback to improve the technology, including support for additional languages, operating systems, and different devices like switches, joysticks, or eye-tracking devices.

A young girl learns to use the Click2Speak on-screen keyboard with a joystick controller.

From employment to education, communication to mobility, each of our grantees is pushing innovation for people with disabilities forward. In addition to these grants, we’re always working to make our own technology more accessible, and yesterday we shared some of the latest on this front, including voice typing in Google Docs and a new tool that helps Android developers build more accessible apps. With all these efforts, our aim to create a world that works for everyone.

Posted by Brigitte Hoyer Gosselink, Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities Project Lead for Brigitte Hoyer Gosselink Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities Project Lead


Building more accessible technology

Category: Google | Apr 11, 2016

Nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population will have a disability during their lifetime, which can make it hard for them to access and interact with technology, and limits the opportunity that technology can bring. That’s why it’s so important to build tools to make technology accessible to everyone—from people with visual impairments who need screen readers or larger text, to people with motor restrictions that prevent them from interacting with a touch screen, to people with hearing impairments who cannot hear their device’s sounds. Here are some updates we’ve made recently to make our technology more accessible:

A tool to help develop accessible apps
Accessibility Scanner is a new tool for Android that lets developers test their own apps and receive suggestions on ways to enhance accessibility. For example, the tool might recommend enlarging small buttons, increasing the contrast between text and its background and more.

Example screens from accessibility scanner

Improvements for the visually impaired in Android N
A few weeks ago we announced a preview of Android N for developers. As part of this update we’re bringing Vision Settings—which lets people control settings like magnification, font size, display size and TalkBack—to the Welcome screen that appears when people activate new Android devices. Putting Vision Settings front and center means someone with a visual impairment can independently set up their own device and activate the features they need, right from the start.

Example screens from Vision Settings
An improved screen reader on Chromebooks

Every Chromebook comes with a built-in screen reader called ChromeVox, which enables people with visual impairments to navigate the screen using text to speech software. Our newest version, ChromeVox Next Beta, includes a simplified keyboard shortcut model, a new caption panel to display speech and Braille output, and a new set of navigation sounds. For more information, visit

Edit documents with your voice
Google Docs now allows typing, editing and formatting using voice commands—for example, “copy” or “insert table”—making it easier for people who can’t use a touchscreen to edit documents. We’ve also continued to work closely with Freedom Scientific, a leading provider of assistive technology products, to improve the Google Docs and Drive experience with the JAWS screen reader.

Example of voice typing in Google Docs

Voice commands on Android devices
We recently launched Voice Access Beta, an app that allows people who have difficulty manipulating a touch screen due to paralysis, tremor, temporary injury or other reasons to control their Android devices by voice. For example, you can say “open Chrome” or “go home” to navigate around the phone, or interact with the screen by saying “click next” or “scroll down.” To download, follow the instructions at

Example showing Voice Access Beta

To learn more about Google accessibility as a whole, visit

Posted by Eve Andersson, Manager, Accessibility Engineering Eve Andersson Manager Accessibility Engineering


Tilt Brush: painting from a new perspective

Category: Google | Apr 5, 2016

From the earliest cave drawings, to classical paintings, to crayon scribbles, humans just have a thing for visual expression. These days digital art has spurred new opportunities for creativity, going well beyond good old pencils and paper. It’s against this canvas that we bring you Tilt Brush—a new virtual reality (VR) app that lets you paint from an entirely new perspective, available today on the HTC Vive.

With Tilt Brush, you can paint in three-dimensional space. Just select your colors and brushes and get going with a wave of your hand. Your room is a blank slate. You can step around, in and through your drawings as you go. And, because it’s in virtual reality, you can even choose to use otherwise-impossible materials like fire, stars or snowflakes.

3D artwork drawn in Tilt Brush

One of the best parts about any new medium is just seeing what’s possible. So, we brought Tilt Brush to The Lab at Google Cultural Institute—a space in Paris created to bring tech and creative communities together to discover new ways to experience art. Since then, artists from around the world and from every discipline have come to explore their style in VR for the very first time.

We’ve already seen some incredible pieces from professional animators, painters, and street artists, but even casual doodlers can start painting in seconds. To get inspired, check out #TiltBrush on Twitter for even more art created with Tilt Brush.

Posted by Andrey Doronichev, Group Product Manager, Google VR Andrey Doronichev Group Product Manager Google VR


Putting the “real” in “virtual reality”

Category: Google | Mar 31, 2016

Virtual reality has brought us to places ranging from the bottom of the ocean to the surface of Mars. But as good as VR is, it’s never been quite as real as, well… real life. Google Cardboard Plastic, launching today, changes all that. It’s our latest step toward truly immersive technology—a new viewer that lets you see, touch, smell and hear the world just like you do in real life.

Cardboard Plastic is the world’s first actual reality headset, complete with 4D integrated perspective, 360° spatially accurate sound, 20/20 resolution, and advanced haptics for realistic touch sensations. Expertly crafted from polymethyl methacrylate, Cardboard Plastic is lightweight, waterproof, and engineered to last a lifetime—no batteries, no wires. And unlike other VR headsets, it integrates seamlessly into your life—so you’ll never miss a thing. Unless you blink.

Find more about Cardboard Plastic at The future is clear.

Posted by Jon Wiley, Director of Immersive Design, Google Cardboard Plastic Jon Wiley Director of Immersive Design Google Cardboard Plastic


Take a virtual step into Abbey Road Studios

Category: Google | Mar 31, 2016

Last year, we opened the doors to the music landmark Abbey Road Studios, where musical legends like the Beatles and Pink Floyd have recorded. With a click of a mouse or a tap of a screen, more than 2 million fans from around the world have stepped Inside Abbey Road to explore the famous studios. Now you can go even further and experience what it actually feels like—and sounds like—inside the studios, using Google Cardboard and your smartphone.

To get this virtual reality experience, download the app on Android (iOS coming soon), then start your journey with a nine-part guided tour narrated by Giles Martin, the son of the late Beatles producer, George Martin, who shares the history of the studios from the 1930’s to present day.

After the tour, you can quite literally move around the studios at your leisure to see hidden treasures like Studio 3’s Mirrored Drum Room, where the mirrors help to create a close, bright and loud sound quality. Uncover one of Abbey Road’s Mastering Suites, where a record gets its finishing touches before a release. In Studio 1, experience what it’s like to be in a recording session with the London Symphony Orchestra with surround sound.

With Inside Abbey Road for Cardboard, you can get even closer to the history, stories and innovation of the most famous music studios in the world.

Posted by Tom Seymour, Creative Lead and VR sightseer, Google Creative Lab London Tom Seymour Creative Lead Google Creative Lab London


Smarter photo albums, without the work

Category: Google | Mar 22, 2016

Remember the last time you went on a trip or had a fun weekend? You probably took photos and videos—lots of them—but didn’t do much beyond posting a couple on social media. Maybe you thought about making an album to share with your family or friends, but picking out the best photos and organizing them can feel as fun as unpacking your suitcase—so more often than not, they just sit on your phone or computer.

Starting today, after an event or trip, Google Photos will suggest a new album for you, curated with just your best shots. It’ll also add maps to show how far you traveled and location pins to remember where you went—because it’s not always easy to recall the late-night diner you hit on your road trip, or which campsite you pitched the tent in when arriving after dark.

You can add text captions to the album to describe the view from the small hill huge mountain you climbed, and turn on collaboration to let others add their own photos. Or if you want to create one yourself, any existing album can now be customized with maps, location pins, and text. Voilà: You have a beautiful album ready to share.

This new album experience is rolling out today on Android, iOS, and the web. We’re taking the best of stories and bringing them to albums, so your adventures are easier to browse, edit, collaborate on, and share.

Posted by Francois de Halleux, Product Manager, Google Photos IMAGE URL Francois de Halleux Product Manager Google Photos


Water organizations using tech to make an impact

Category: Google | Mar 22, 2016

By 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas. Already, more than 663 million people in the world live without clean water. And drought is a major challenge in geographies ranging from Northern California, which is facing its worst drought in 1,200 years; to east Africa, where a devastating drought has led to crop failures affecting an estimated 23 million people.

To address challenges at this scale, we need creative solutions—both to raise awareness for these issues, and create new interventions to meet local needs. So this World Water Day, we want to highlight a handful of organizations who are using technologies—like virtual reality, data analysis, and mapping—to make a difference.

Documenting impact with 360 video
The nonprofit organization charity:water uses the power of crowd-fundraising to build wells in communities with limited access to clean water. Since 2006, they’ve funded more than 19,000 water projects in 24 countries that will serve more than 6 million people. Three years ago, gave charity:water a US$5 million grant to build well sensors that notify local mechanics of the need for repair—helping ensure ongoing access to clean water and creating new local jobs.

Today, charity:water is releasing The Source on YouTube 360, a virtual reality film that documents the before-and-after impact of one of these well projects in Ethiopia.

To view the video in 360, press play and use the arrows on the cursor in the upper left-hand corner to look up, down, right and left.

Mapping our waterways with Street View in Google Maps
With California in its worst drought in recorded history, the need to understand and manage the state’s rivers, lakes, and watersheds is acute. Environmental organizations like the Nature Conservancy, California and the Freshwater Trust have borrowed the Street View Trekker—used as a backpack and mounted on a kayak—to capture 360-degree imagery. These images are useful in many ways; for The Nature Conservancy, the data will provide baseline imagery to compare forest growth and regrowth over time. The Freshwater Trust is using the imagery to validate their scientific models of the river, and prioritize areas for restoration, such as planting of native plant species along the banks.

The Freshwater Trust scientist guides the Trekker-mounted kayak down the Russian River, capturing 360-degree imagery as he floats. Photo Credit: Brian Kelley of The Freshwater Trust.

For non-scientists, it’s easy to click through on Street View to take in these natural watershed wonders, firsthand. Check out Independence Lake Preserve and the Russian River for yourself!

Monitoring clean water with sensors
When it comes to water contamination in rural areas, collecting reliable data is often one of the biggest challenges. In 2014, a nonprofit called Associacao O Eco won the Google Impact Challenge: Brazil with a proposal for a data-collection project called InfoAmazonia. The project will deploy a network of sensors that send a text message to local citizens and officials if contamination is detected. In the next phase of the project, the organization plans to create an open-source toolkit and citizen-led initiative that enables local people to install these sensors, understand their own data, and advocate for a cleaner water supply.

Two members of the InfoAmazonia team install the Mãe d´água sensor in one of the communities in Santarém, Pará, Brazil.
Water tracking with satellites
Between 2011-2012, Africa endured its worst drought in 50 years. Without water, crop failures have lead to malnourishment and displacement across the region. To help with the relief efforts, we gave a grant to the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) for satellite imaging technologies to assess crop availability, monitor water quality in Lakes Victoria and Malawi, and provide data for an early warning system for floods and fires.

The near real-time data capture has helped local officials make informed decisions about managing water resources, and addressing food security in the region.

Examples of data and imagery collected through the satellite system.
Help raise awareness on water issues
This year, water nonprofit Drop4Drop is asking people to complete the sentence “W is for…” in order to raise awareness for the global clean water crisis. To us, “W is for… Water organizations using tech to make an impact.” The solutions to the world’s water challenges are complex, and some will take years to achieve. These organizations are applying technology to these challenges in new and unique ways, and we’re glad to play a small part.

We encourage you to write your own “W is for…” post and use the hashtag #W4Water to join the conversation on social media.

Posted by Jacquelline Fuller, IMAGE URL Jacquelline Fuller


Akilah’s “Afrocentric life” doodle wins Doodle 4 Google 2016

Category: Google | Mar 21, 2016

Today’s blog post is by the winner of this year’s Doodle 4 Google competition, 10th grader Akilah Johnson. Given the contest’s theme—“What makes me…me”—who better than the young artist herself to answer that question? – Ed.

When I was younger, I attended Roots Public Charter School and Roots Activity Learning Center in Northwest Washington, D.C. These schools promote a strong connection to African heritage, and an Afrocentric lifestyle; we regularly celebrated important African American people and I learned a lot about my history as an African American. As I grew older, I realized that the black people that came before us have made us into what we are today. So of course I had to include them in my doodle on the theme “What makes me…me.”

My goal with my art was to not only turn heads but souls as well—not only for someone to see it and be amazed by it but also to have them understand and connect with it. My drawing explores childhood themes and then moves into reflections on our society. Everything surrounding the word “Google” depicts my characteristics. Of all the things I chose to include, the six most special to me are the Symbol of Life (the ankh), the African continent, where everything began for me and my ancestors, the Eye of Horus, the word “power” drawn in black, the woman’s fist based on one of my favorite artist’s works, and the D.C. flag—because I’m a Washingtonian at heart and I love my city with everything in me!

I’ve always been encouraged to pursue art, especially by my teachers—first Baba Camera from Roots, and now my art teacher Zalika Perkins. But participating in Doodle 4 Google gave me an understanding of why art matters and why MY art matters—because it speaks to people. No matter our differences, everyone is touched by art in some way. Winning this competition opened my eyes to the many types of art and the many ways it can resonate with people. I’m excited to keep creating art that matters.

Posted by Akilah Johnson, Doodle 4 Google winner IMAGE URL AUTHOR NAME AUTHOR TITLE AUTHOR TEAM