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Category: Google | Dec 10, 2012
Last year, a group of us were lucky enough to visit the U.K. Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street, as part of the Silicon Valley Comes to the U.K. initiative. While there, we asked about some of the paintings on the wall. When we got to a large portrait of a regally dressed woman, our host said “and of course, that’s Lady Lovelace.” So much of world history leaves out or minimizes the contributions of women, and so “of course” most of us had no idea who she was. You can imagine our surprise when we learned she was considered by some to be the world’s first computer programmer—having published the first algorithm intended for use on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine.
Lady Ada Lovelace, painted by Margaret Carpenter in 1836, from the U.K. Government Art Collection. Photo thanks to Wikimedia Commons.
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, was born nearly two centuries ago in 1815. Her mother, mathematician Anne Isabelle Milbanke, was determined Ada would not fall prey to the same immoralities as Ada’s father, the “mad, bad and dangerous to know” poet Lord Byron. Thus, in an attempt to thwart any similar tendencies, she had Ada tutored in science and mathematics from a young age. It’s fair to say this did not completely work, as Ada went on to lead a rather colourful life. However it did fortuitously result in Ada becoming a mathematician like her mother, and pursuing what she termed “poetical science.”
After a chance encounter when aged 17, Ada became friends with Charles Babbage and grew fascinated by his idea to build an “Analytical Engine.” In 1843 Ada published a description of Babbage’s machine. While partly a translation of an Italian work, Ada added voluminous self-penned notes, which made up the bulk of the document. Included in her notes were step-by-step instructions for how the machine could calculate a sequence of Bernoulli numbers, prepared in collaboration with Babbage. In effect, this was the world’s first published algorithm.
Most importantly, the notes set out Ada’s far-reaching vision for what the Analytical Engine signified. While Babbage saw it as a mathematical calculator, Ada understood it had much more potential. She realised it was, in essence, a machine that could manipulate symbols in accordance with defined rules, and—crucially—that there was no reason the symbols had to represent only numbers and equations.
“The Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves.” Ada Lovelace, 1843
As Ada eloquently argued, such a device could do far more than mathematics. She even mused about its potential to compose music:
“Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.”
This was an astounding conceptual leap from calculation to computing. Ada envisaged a day when a single machine would be capable of a myriad of tasks, limited only by the creativity of its programmer. At the time—nearly a century before the first computers were built—it was a flash of brilliance.
After our visit to Downing Street, we returned to the U.S. determined to learn more about Ada, and to revive her memory. Today, her birthday, is an apt moment. In addition to this post, Google is honouring Ada with a doodle in recognition of her prophetic vision for computing.
Design of doodle by Kevin Laughlin
Unfortunately, Babbage’s machines were never built in his lifetime, and Ada’s vision of computing was lost to obscurity for more than a century. It wasn’t until 1991 that the Science Museum London built Babbage’s Difference Engine from his original drawings. That machine is now on show there, and a second one is now at the Computer History Museum in California. Plans are now afoot to build a replica of the Analytic Engine—so perhaps Ada’s algorithm will at last be run on the machine for which it was intended.
Ada’s experience is sadly all too familiar. Too often, the contributions of women in science and technology are left untold, and to fade from view. While Ada’s story has been rediscovered, many others remain little known. That’s why initiatives such as Ada Lovelace Day are so valuable, as a catalyst for raising the profile of women in science, past and present. Several wonderful biographies of Ada have been written already, and biographer Walter Isaacson has turned his attention to Ada as part of his next book.
Visibility is also the reason why we launched the Women Techmakers series on GDL, to help shine a light on the roles and contributions of the many talented technical women in our industry today. We hope our series will complement other efforts to raise the profile of women, such as the new AOL/PBS supported website and documentary Makers.com or the work of Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis on SeeJane to improve gender balance and reduce stereotypes in childrens’ television globally.
We hope today’s doodle inspires people to find out more about Ada, and about the contributions made by women in general to science and technology.
Posted by Megan Smith, VP, Google[x] and Lynette Webb, Senior Manager, External Relations
Category: Google | Dec 6, 2012
For our international readers, this post is also available in Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Portuguese and Spanish (Spain, Latin America). – Ed.
During the holidays we reconnect with loved ones and rediscover what makes us tick. And it’s times like these that remind me why we started Google+ in the first place: to make online sharing as meaningful as the real thing. Too often our online tools miss the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions, and Google+ aims to fix this. Fortunately we’ve got a vibrant community to guide us.
Today Google+ is the fastest-growing network thingy ever. More than 500 million people have upgraded, 235 million are active across Google (+1′ing apps in Google Play, hanging out in Gmail, connecting with friends in Search…), and 135 million are active in just the stream.
This enthusiasm, we think, stems from our building tools that build real relationships—in a live hangout, around a breathtaking photo, or with an inner circle of friends. So today we’re launching two new improvements that help bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software.
Google+ Communities: for all the people you ought to know
From photography to astronomy (and everything in between), Google+ has always been a place to crowd around common interests and meet new people. What’s been missing, however, are more permanent homes for all the stuff you love: the wonderful, the weird, and yes, even the things that are waaay out there. With Google+ Communities there’s now a gathering place for your passions, including:
- Public or private membership to support all kinds of groups—from topics and interests to local neighborhoods to regular poker nights
- Discussion categories to find the conversations you care about most
- The option to start hangouts and plan events with community members
- The ability to share with your community from any +1 button across the web
To give it a try just click on the new “Communities” icon (rolling out today), then create or join your favorite community. It’s only a preview, and mobile’s coming soon, so we’re keen to get your feedback.
Snapseed: beautiful photos with your mobile device
Great pictures aren’t taken, they’re made—and Nik Software has been helping people make awesome photos for years. Having welcomed Nik to the Google family, we’re excited to bring their Snapseed app (last year’s iPad app of the year) to Android. It includes:
- Basic adjustments like tune, straighten and crop
- Creative filters like drama, black & white, and vintage that you can apply individually or in combination
- Control Point technology to selectively enhance your photo—to brighten just a face, for instance, or deepen just the sky
- The ability to share your creations via Google+ and other services
Snapseed is rolling out now to Google Play and the App Store, and starting today, both versions are free.
Sample image created with Snapseed; gallery available here
This time of year we honor the past, and imagine what’s ahead. So we want to thank you for lending your big hearts to this small project. And we invite you to a future where everyone’s cared for and comfortable in their own skin—in life and online. Let’s keep building Google+ together, and let’s be excellent to each other this holiday season.
Posted by Vic Gundotra, Senior Vice President
Category: Google | Dec 6, 2012
A year ago we released Street View imagery of areas in Northeastern Japan that were affected by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Our hope was that the 360-degree panoramas would provide a comprehensive, accurate and easy-to-use way for people around the world to view the damage to the region by enabling a virtual walk through of the disaster zones.
The panoramas were only the start of our digital archiving project. Last month we took the next step—using the technology behind Business Photos to photograph the inside of buildings in Northeastern Japan that were heavily damaged but still standing. We worked with four city governments in the Tōhoku area to photograph more than 30 buildings, and today we’re bringing this imagery to Google Maps and our Memories for the Future site. The new imagery enables you to walk through the buildings and switch between floors to get a first-hand glimpse at the extent of the destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami.
The timing of the project was critical. There has been a strong debate in these areas whether to keep the buildings up as a permanent reminder of the tragedy or to tear them down to allow emotional wounds to heal. After long consultations with their citizens, many local governments have decided to move forward with demolishing the buildings. Knowing this, we quickly moved to photograph the buildings before they started to be dismantled.
The panorama below shows an elementary school very close to the ocean. Thankfully, all the students survived the disaster as they had been well drilled to rush to escape at the sound of tsunami warnings.
Other sites include Rikuzentakata city public housing, a building that physically demonstrates the heights of the tsunami wave. Everything up to the fourth floor is completely ruined, but the fifth floor remains mostly unscathed.
Panorama of Rikuzentakata City Public Housing
We’ve also captured imagery of Ukedo Elementary School and a few other buildings in Namie Town—located in the restricted area (PDF) within 20km of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In the elementary school, you can see holes in the gym floor, where a graduation banner still hangs in the gym, though the ceremony never took place.
Panorama of Ukedo Elementary School
We’ll continue to photograph more buildings in two Iwate Prefecture cities, Ōfunato and Kamaishi, over the coming weeks. By the end of the year, we also hope to complete the collection of imagery from five new cities in the Miyagi prefecture. We look forward to making this new imagery available as soon as it’s ready to pay tribute to both the tragedy of the disaster and the current efforts to rebuild. City governments in Northeastern Japan that are interested in this digital archiving project are welcome to contact us through this form.
Posted by Kei Kawai, Group Product Manager, Street View
Category: Google | Dec 5, 2012
More than a billion people use Google Maps each month to find their way around town and around the world. To help these people get exactly the information they need, the Google Maps team works constantly to ensure that the geographic data behind our maps is comprehensive and accurate. As part of this ongoing effort, we’ve just released updated maps for 10 countries and regions in Europe: Andorra, Bulgaria, Estonia, Gibraltar, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.
Today’s update is part of a project called Ground Truth that began in 2008. Through this initiative, we acquire high-quality map data from authoritative sources around the world and then apply a mix of advanced algorithms, supplemental data (including satellite, aerial and Street View imagery), and human input to create a map that corresponds as closely as possible to the real-world facts that you’d find if you were to visit that location.
For example, this update adds a new 70-km section of Bulgaria’s Trakiya motorway, which opened recently to drivers but hasn’t been reflected on most maps of the region until now.
But roads and highways alone don’t define the character of a place, and they aren’t always sufficient to help you get around. So Google Maps also integrates information such as walking paths, ferry lines, building outlines, park boundaries, university campuses and more—providing a richer, more comprehensive and more realistic experience for locals, visitors and armchair travelers alike.
Our new map of Spain, for example, not only shows the famous Museo del Prado and Parque del Retiro in Madrid, but also includes additional building models in surrounding neighborhoods, the well-known “Estanque” (or pond) in the center of the park, and detailed walking paths throughout both the park and the nearby Royal Botanical Gardens.
Of course, the world is always changing, and we want Google Maps to change with it. So when you notice something on the map that needs updating, let us know through the simple “Report a problem” tool in the lower right corner of the map. We’ll make the appropriate changes to the map—often within just a few minutes or hours of reviewing and verifying your feedback! This tool launches today in the 10 places where we’ve updated our maps, and is already available in dozens of other countries around the world.
With today’s release, the maps that we’ve built through our Ground Truth initiative are now available in a total of 40 countries worldwide. To see the progress we’ve made to date, take a look at the image below (click for a full-size version).
We hope today’s launch of more comprehensive and accurate maps of Europe will help you explore amazing places from Barcelona and Budapest to Bratislava and beyond.
Posted by Brian McClendon, VP Google Maps and Google Earth
Category: Google | Dec 4, 2012
Technology has dramatically improved our lives—from the speed at which we get things done to how we connect with others. Yet innovations in medicine, business and communications have far outpaced tech-enabled advances in the nonprofit sector.
Today we’re launching the Global Impact Awards to support organizations using technology and innovative approaches to tackle some of the toughest human challenges. From real-time sensors that monitor clean water to DNA barcoding that stops wildlife trafficking, our first round of awards provides $23 million to seven organizations changing the world.
charity: water: Real-time technology to monitor water and ensure it gets to more people
One in nine people across the globe lack access to clean water. At any given time, approximately one-third of water pumps built by NGOs and government groups in remote areas are not functioning. charity: water will use its $5 million Global Impact Award to install remote sensors at 4,000 water points across Africa by 2015, monitoring and recording actual water flow rate to ensure better maintenance of and access to clean water for more than 1 million people.
Consortium for the Barcode of Life: DNA barcoding to identify and protect endangered wildlife
More than 2,000 endangered species are protected from illegal trade by UN regulations. Intercepting wildlife transferred across borders is critical to slowing illegal trade, but detection tools are expensive and unavailable. The Smithsonian Institution’s Consortium for the Barcode of Life will use its $3 million Global Impact Award to work with researchers in six developing countries to create and implement “DNA barcoding,” a public library of DNA barcode tests that enforcement officials can use as a front-line tool.
DonorsChoose.org: New program to enroll more underrepresented students in advanced classes
In the U.S., girls and disadvantaged students are less likely to study math and science in college or pursue related careers, in part because they’re not exposed to advanced classes in high school. DonorsChoose.org will use its $5 million Global Impact Award to work with the College Board and provide public schools across the U.S. with the start-up materials needed to create 500 new AP science and math courses. DonorsChoose.org will also help successful teachers reinvest in their classrooms and students.
Equal Opportunity Schools: Data to identify high-performing yet underrepresented students
Every year, more than 600,000 low-income students in the U.S. miss out on advanced classes that provide college training. Using data analytics, Equal Opportunity Schools will use its $1.8 million Global Impact Award to identify 6,000 high-performing yet underrepresented students and move them into advanced classes.
Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media: Tools to analyze and promote gender equality in media
What kids see on screen has a profound effect on how they see the world, from body image to academic performance. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media will use its $1.2 million Global Impact Award to support the development of automated technology that analyzes female portrayals in children’s media.
GiveDirectly: Mobile technology to put money directly into the hands of the poor
Despite assumptions, direct cash transfers are a proven approach to lifting people out of poverty. Research documents substantial positive impacts on a wide range of indicators, including farm profits and infant birth weight. GiveDirectly will use its $2.4 million Global Impact Award to scale its model of direct cash transfers.
World Wildlife Fund: New technologies to advance anti-poaching efforts
The illegal wildlife trade, estimated to be worth $7-10 billion annually, devastates endangered species, damages ecosystems, and threatens local livelihoods and regional security. World Wildlife Fund will use its $5 million Global Impact Award to adapt and implement specialized sensors and wildlife tagging technology.
We invite you to learn more about Google’s new Global Impact Awards and the other ways we give. As we reflect back over this year, I’m proud to report that we’ve been able to support organizations changing the world with more than $100 million in grants, $1 billion in technology and 50,000 hours of Googler volunteering.
Posted by Jacquelline Fuller, Director of Giving at Google
Category: Google | Dec 3, 2012
It’s that time of year: school is in full swing, the holidays are just around the corner, and we’re once again accepting proposals for our Computer Science for High School (CS4HS) grants. CS4HS is a “train the trainer” program that aims to give teachers the tools they need in order to bring computer science and computational thinking into the classroom.
With a grant from Google, university, college and technical college faculty develop these three to five day workshops—hands-on, interactive opportunities for K-12 teachers to learn how to teach CS to their students. Some programs are geared toward CS teachers, while others are for non-CS teachers who want to incorporate computer science into their curriculum. No two programs are exactly alike, and it is the creative and passionate material that organizers develop which makes this program so unique—and successful.
2013 marks the fifth consecutive year for our CS4HS program, and we’ve grown significantly. Hundreds of students and thousands of teachers have been through these workshops to date, and our program has spread to include places in Africa, Australia, Canada, China, Europe, the Middle East, New Zealand and the U.S. Our alumni are connected to each other, other educators and organizers through our teacher’s forum, which also enables K-12 teachers interested in CS education to join the discussion and ask questions.
We’re accepting applications on our website from now until February 16, 2013. To qualify, you must work for an accredited university, college or technical school in one of the qualifying regions. Each region has a slightly different application process, so make sure to read up on your area at www.cs4hs.com.
If you’re not a university faculty member, but still want to be involved, reach out to a local area university and encourage the CS Chairperson to apply; peruse information on our K-12 educators page to start bringing CS into your classroom; and check for updates on our website starting in March to find a program near you.
We’re excited to help even more educators learn how to bring computer science to their students, whether they’re teaching CS, math, history, or any other subject. Together, we can start the next generation of CS professionals on their way.
Posted by Erin Mindell, Program Manager, Google Education
Category: Google | Dec 3, 2012
Starting in 1973, when my colleagues and I proposed the technology behind the Internet, we advocated for an open standard to connect computer networks together. This wasn’t merely philosophical; it was also practical.
Our protocols were designed to make the networks of the Internet non-proprietary and interoperable. They avoided “lock-in,” and allowed for contributions from many sources. This openness is why the Internet creates so much value today. Because it is borderless and belongs to everyone, it has brought unprecedented freedoms to billions of people worldwide: the freedom to create and innovate, to organize and influence, to speak and be heard.
But starting in a few hours, a closed-door meeting of the world’s governments is taking place in Dubai, and regulation of the Internet is on the agenda. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is convening a conference from December 3-14 to revise a decades-old treaty, in which only governments have a vote. Some proposals could allow governments to justify the censorship of legitimate speech, or even cut off Internet access in their countries.
You can read more about my concerns on CNN.com, but I am not alone. So far, more than 1,000 organizations from more than 160 countries have spoken up too, and they’re joined by hundreds of thousands of Internet users who are standing up for a free and open Internet. On an interactive map at freeandopenweb.com, you can see that people from all corners of the world have signed our petition, used the #freeandopen hashtag on social media, or created and uploaded videos to say how important these issues are.
If you agree and want to support a free and open Internet too, I invite you to join us by signing the petition at google.com/takeaction. Please make your voice heard and spread the word.
Posted by Vint Cerf, VP and Chief Internet Evangelist
Category: Google | Nov 30, 2012
Digital tools are an increasing impetus for innovation across African newsrooms. From crowdsourcing content to using infographics to tell stories, journalists are finding new ways to report the news. We’re excited to be supporting these innovators through the $1 million Africa News Innovation Challenge, announced in May this year—the latest in a series of projects to spur innovation in African journalism.
Run by the the African Media Initiative, other partners include Omidyar Network, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the U.S. State Department, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). The response to the challenge was really enthusiastic, with more than 500 proposals submitted.
The 20 winners are all exciting digital journalism projects that will contribute to solving some of the biggest challenges facing the African media industry. They range from mobile apps to mobilise citizens against corruption and improved infographics to communicate complex issues, to developing new platforms for sharing content on buses and taxis. Key themes among the projects include a growing concern about manipulated online content, the security of communications with whistleblowers and sources, and the need to improve engagement with audiences.
The projects have the potential to be replicated by media elsewhere in Africa, or to be scaled up across the continent, to create wide and sustained impact. Some projects will also develop new tools to support newsrooms and boost media revenues to support sustainable journalism. Winners will receive cash grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000; technology support from a team of four developers at AMI’s jAccelerator lab in Kenya, and business development support from top media strategists affiliated with the World Association of Newspapers & News Publishers. Ten of the winners will also be flown to the Knight Foundation’s annual M.I.T. Civic Media Conference in the U.S., while the rest will be showcased at other important industry events.
The ANIC winners are:
- actNOW (Ghana)
- AdBooker (South Africa)
- Africa Check (South Africa / Nigeria)
- skyCAM (Kenya / Nigeria)
- Africa’s Wealth (renamed NewsStack) (Nigeria / Namibia)
- Citizen Desk (Mozambique)
- Code4Ghana (Ghana)
- ConvergeCMS (Kenya / Tanzania / Uganda)
- CorruptionNET (South Africa)
- DataWrapper (Nigeria / Senegal / Tanzania)
- End-to-End (renamed LastMile Crowdmapping) (Liberia / Ghana / Kenya)
- FlashCast (Kenya)
- Green Hornet (South Africa)
- ListeningPost (South Africa)
- MoJo: Keeping media honest by monitoring online journalism (South Africa)
- openAFRICA (Kenya / Nigeria / Rwanda / South Africa)
- ODADI (renamed Code4SouthAfrica) (South Africa)
- Oxpeckers (South Africa)
- Wikipedia Zero (Cameroon / Ivory Coast / Tunisia / Uganda)
- ZeroNews (pan-African)
You can learn more about the winners’ projects on the ANIC website.
We can’t wait to see how these innovations unfold and we look forward to working with more African journalists to help them use technologies to tell important stories.
Posted by Julie Taylor, Communications Manager, Sub Saharan Africa
(Cross-posted from the Africa Blog)
Category: Google | Nov 29, 2012
If you’ve ever asked a question in the Google Help Forums, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve met a Google Top Contributor. Last September, we told you a little bit about the Top Contributors when we hosted our 2011 Top Contributor Summit. Since then, Top Contributors continue to help millions of people get the most out of Google’s products by answering questions in Google’s Help Forums.
They also continue to give important feedback to Google. Top Contributors have advocated for features and improvements like custom colors in Google Calendar, more locations for offline Google Maps on Android devices, and protected ranges in Google Sheets. In short, they help Google build better products.
Starting today, you can find out more about Top Contributors on our new website for the program. You can learn about Google Help Forums, meet a few of the Top Contributors, and get a better understanding of what these incredible folks do to impact people’s lives in the forums every day.
We hope that the website brings the world of Google Help Forums to light and shows our thanks for the dedication Top Contributors show each day. To meet a Top Contributor or get some help, just stop by a forum and say hello. And let us know if you want more information on joining the Top Contributor Program!
Posted by Adrienne Ludwick, Top Contributor Program Manager
Category: Google | Nov 28, 2012
For several years now, we’ve been working to help the veteran community through outreach programs and by connecting veterans and their families to useful Google products and services. For example, we’ve built tools like the Veterans Job Bank to connect veterans with employers, today populated with more than a million jobs. And we created a Resume Builder to help job-seekers represent their experience in just a few clicks with Google Docs.
After years of working with the community, we’ve come to realize that it isn’t more tools that are needed, but rather organizing the ones that already exist, and making them easier to find. Perhaps the most complex challenge facing the veteran community today is the sheer volume of resources available to help them transition to civilian life. While this abundance is the measure of a grateful nation, and a tribute to those who served, in the end, the most important result is individuals and families getting the help they need.
With this in mind, we’ve put the powers of Google+ behind a single hub called VetNet. Today, VetNet launches as a partnership with three founding organizations: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and Hire Heroes USA. In the long run, other organizations will be able to offer their services to the veteran community, all in the same easy-to-use place.
Through VetNet, these founding partners offer a full spectrum of employment resources for members of the community. Whether starting a job search from scratch, looking for mentors in a specific industry or starting a business, transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses will be able to connect with career services, job opportunities and each other.
All of the content and resources are organized into three tracks by objective, each hosted on its own Google+ page.
To stay abreast of the most exciting events happening across all tracks, follow +VetNetHQ on Google+.
We’re proud to join forces with the Chamber, IVMF and Hire Heroes USA—to help them do what they do so well, and to simplify the process of finding and using resources for the veterans community. Our hope is simply to connect help to those who need it. If you’re a member of the community looking any career advice or help, get started at VetNetHQ.com. For those of us who have not served, please do what you can to spread word of VetNet to those who have.
Posted by Andy Berndt, Creative Lab