News > Google
Category: Google | Jun 14, 2013
The Internet is one of the most transformative technologies of our lifetimes. But for 2 out of every 3 people on earth, a fast, affordable Internet connection is still out of reach. And this is far from being a solved problem.
There are many terrestrial challenges to Internet connectivity—jungles, archipelagos, mountains. There are also major cost challenges. Right now, for example, in most of the countries in the southern hemisphere, the cost of an Internet connection is more than a month’s income.
Solving these problems isn’t simply a question of time: it requires looking at the problem of access from new angles. So today we’re unveiling our latest moonshot from Google[x]: balloon-powered Internet access.
We believe that it might actually be possible to build a ring of balloons, flying around the globe on the stratospheric winds, that provides Internet access to the earth below. It’s very early days, but we’ve built a system that uses balloons, carried by the wind at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes, to beam Internet access to the ground at speeds similar to today’s 3G networks or faster. As a result, we hope balloons could become an option for connecting rural, remote, and underserved areas, and for helping with communications after natural disasters. The idea may sound a bit crazy—and that’s part of the reason we’re calling it Project Loon—but there’s solid science behind it.
Balloons, with all their effortless elegance, present some challenges. Many projects have looked at high-altitude platforms to provide Internet access to fixed areas on the ground, but trying to stay in one place like this requires a system with major cost and complexity. So the idea we pursued was based on freeing the balloons and letting them sail freely on the winds. All we had to do was figure out how to control their path through the sky. We’ve now found a way to do that, using just wind and solar power: we can move the balloons up or down to catch the winds we want them to travel in. That solution then led us to a new problem: how to manage a fleet of balloons sailing around the world so that each balloon is in the area you want it right when you need it. We’re solving this with some complex algorithms and lots of computing power.
Now we need some help—this experiment is going to take way more than our team alone. This week we started a pilot program in the Canterbury area of New Zealand with 50 testers trying to connect to our balloons. This is the first time we’ve launched this many balloons (30 this week, in fact) and tried to connect to this many receivers on the ground, and we’re going to learn a lot that will help us improve our technology and balloon design.
Over time, we’d like to set up pilots in countries at the same latitude as New Zealand. We also want to find partners for the next phase of our project—we can’t wait to hear feedback and ideas from people who’ve been working for far longer than we have on this enormous problem of providing Internet access to rural and remote areas. We imagine someday you’ll be able to use your cell phone with your existing service provider to connect to the balloons and get connectivity where there is none today.
This is still highly experimental technology and we have a long way to go—we’d love your support as we keep trying and keep flying! Follow our Google+ page to keep up with Project Loon’s progress.
Onward and upward.
Posted by Mike Cassidy, Project Lead
Category: Google | Jun 13, 2013
We’re all looking for ways to get a little healthier and smarter about the choices we make. Having tools and information at your fingertips might help bring a bit of motivation to your routine, and of course good tunes and a strong community doesn’t hurt either.
What’s in that cupcake?
Want to know how many calories are in a cupcake, or how much potassium is in a banana? You can now find nutrition information for over 1,000 foods in search – helping you stay informed about what you eat more quickly and easily. While using voice search, on desktop, your iPhone, or Android device you can ask, “how many calories are in a cupcake?” and you can follow-up and ask, “how about a cookie?” without needing to repeat parts of your question. Fruits and vegetables don’t have labels, and it’s often hard to track down the nutritional info for wine or more complex dishes like a burrito, so type or tap the microphone and easily ask your question for these foods and more.
Explore what’s around you, on two wheels
If you want a change of scenery from the gym, use Google Maps on your Android device to find nearby biking routes. Mount your device on your handlebars to see the turn-by-turn directions and navigation, or use speaker-mode to hear voice-guided directions for more than 330,000 miles of trails and paths around the world. Dark green lines on the map show dedicated bike trails and paths without cars, light green lines show streets with dedicated bike lanes, and dashed green lines show other streets recommended for cycling.
Team up to get fit
Looking to get healthy with a friend? Join a Google+ Community and connect with others that share your diet and exercise goals. Check out Communities such as Eating Right and Fitness & Weight Loss for motivation, tips and inspiration to keep you on track. Use Hangouts On Air to learn what experts like The Biggest Loser are saying about nutrition or jump into a yoga class.
Don’t stop the music
A good beat will keep you moving and motivated. Sign up for All Access, our new music subscription service, and you can listen to millions of songs from Google Play Music. Build an awesome workout mix or start a radio station from your favorite pop song like “We Can’t Stop!” Miley Cyrus says it best.
Keep track—no matter which device you’re on
Counting calories? Apps such as Diet Diary can be easily accessed through Chrome or on your mobile device—that way it’s with you when it‘s on your mind. If spreadsheets are more your style, try one of several Google Docs templates, like this weekly meal planner.
Get inspired by the pros
Need a little more motivation? Why not watch fitness gurus do their thing on YouTube: you can watch Sadie Nardini and her amazing yoga classes, or Cassey Ho will get you in top shape for summer – all in the comfort of your own living room.
Posted by Roya Soleimani, Google Search team
Category: Google | Jun 12, 2013
My friends and I used to play videogames all the time, squashed together on the couch, engaged in structured intellectual discourse about exactly how badly we were going to destroy each other. Now that we live spread out around the world, it’s a bit harder to dance in each other’s faces and yell “booyah!” every time we win a game. Enter: Cube Slam.
Cube Slam is a video game that you can play face-to-face against your friends. It’s a Chrome Experiment built using WebRTC, an open web technology that lets you video chat right in the browser without installing any plug-ins. That means you can quickly and easily play Cube Slam with your friends, no matter where they are in the world, just by sharing a link.
To win Cube Slam, hit the cube against your friend’s screen three times until the screen explodes. Shields, obstacles, and gravity fields change with every new level, and you can unlock power-ups including fireballs, lasers, multi-balls, mirrored controls, bulletproof shields, fog, ghost balls, time bombs, resized paddles, extra lives and death balls––though you might want to avoid the death balls. If none of your friends are online, you can always play against Bob the Bear and see what level you can reach. If you install the Cube Slam app, you can even play Bob when you’re offline.
Cube Slam’s graphics are rendered in WebGL and CSS 3D, and its custom soundtrack is delivered dynamically through Web Audio. WebRTC, which enables the two-person game, is available on desktop Chrome and Chrome OS, and will be available on mobile later this year. In the meantime, you can play Cube Slam against Bob the Bear on your phone or tablet. To learn more about what’s going on under the hood, see our technology page and Chromium blog post.
Play a friend. Play a bear. Have fun!
Posted by Clem Wright, Google Creative Lab, Ursine Diversion Division
Category: Google | Jun 12, 2013
Thanks to modern technology you can connect with your loved ones by sending a quick note, a photo of your cat, even a smile :) around the world in seconds. But one of humanity’s most iconic forms of communication—the kiss—has been left out in the cold. Now, though, you can send a kiss to anyone, anywhere in the world, through Burberry Kisses, a new campaign from Burberry and Google. And not just any kiss, but your kiss.
To get started, simply visit kisses.burberry.com and pucker up in front of your webcam (this works best on Chrome). Using unique kiss-detection technology, the site will detect the outline of your actual lips, which you can choose to dress up with a Burberry lipstick color. If you’re using your touch screen mobile or tablet, you can actually kiss your screen (you might want to wipe it off first) and your lip outline will be taken from there. After that, write a short message and send it to someone from your Google+ friends list or via email. Then sit back and see the envelope with your message fly from your city to the receiver’s destination across a 3D landscape. The receiver gets an email, from which they can see the same journey, read your message and hopefully respond with a kiss of their own.
For an example, see this message I sent to my mom this morning. All the kisses being sent around the world can be seen in a real-time interactive map, capturing the story of the world’s love. You don’t have to kiss and tell: all kisses are private unless you choose to share.
Burberry Kisses is the latest campaign in our Art, Copy & Code project, an ongoing series of brand partnerships to re-imagine how brands tell stories in a connected world. With this project, we’ve tried to create a beautiful experience that comes to life across all screens, and helps connect you to the people who are important to you, wherever they are. For more details on the campaign, see our agency blog or visit our website.
Posted by Aman Govil, Art, Copy & Code Project Lead
Category: Google | Jun 11, 2013
This morning we sent the following letter to the offices of the Attorney General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Read the full text below. -Ed.
Dear Attorney General Holder and Director Mueller
Google has worked tremendously hard over the past fifteen years to earn our users’ trust. For example, we offer encryption across our services; we have hired some of the best security engineers in the world; and we have consistently pushed back on overly broad government requests for our users’ data.
We have always made clear that we comply with valid legal requests. And last week, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that service providers have received Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests.
Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue. However, government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.
We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope. Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide.
Google appreciates that you authorized the recent disclosure of general numbers for national security letters. There have been no adverse consequences arising from their publication, and in fact more companies are receiving your approval to do so as a result of Google’s initiative. Transparency here will likewise serve the public interest without harming national security.
We will be making this letter public and await your response.
Chief Legal Officer
Category: Google | Jun 11, 2013
Many great scientists developed their curiosity for science at an early age and in January we called on the brightest young minds from around the world to send us their ideas to change the world. Our 2013 Google Science Fair attracted an exciting and diverse range of entries, with thousands of submissions from more than 120 countries.
After a busy few months for the judges, we’re ready to reveal our 90 regional finalists for the 2013 Google Science Fair. It was no easy task selecting these projects, but in the end their creativity, scientific merit and global relevance shined through. This year’s finalists projects range from using banana peels to produce bioplastics to research into a green treatment for contaminated water. Other projects include a study on the effects of video gaming on the cognitive function of the brain and the evaluation of wireless transmission of electricity.
The 90 Regional Finalists come from all over the world.
For the second year, we’ll also be recognizing the Scientific American Science in Action Award. This award honors a project that makes a practical difference by addressing an environmental, health or resources challenge. From the 90 finalists’ projects, 15 were nominated for this year’s award.
On June 27 we’ll announce the 15 global finalists and the winner of the Science in Action Award. These young scientists will then be flown to Google’s California headquarters for the last round of judging and a celebratory event on September 23.
Thank you to everyone who submitted a project—we really appreciate all your hard work. Congratulations to our 90 regional finalists!
Posted by Sam Peter, Google Science Fair team
Category: Google | Jun 11, 2013
More than ever, people are using the Internet to shop, read, listen to music and learn. And businesses rely on Internet-based tools to operate and deliver their services efficiently. The Internet has created all kinds of new opportunities for society and the economy—but what does it mean for the environment?
We’ve been working to answer that question and enlisted the help of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) to gather more data. Their study (PDF), released today, shows that migrating all U.S. office workers to the cloud could save up to 87 percent of IT energy use—about 23 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, or enough to power the city of Los Angeles for a year. The savings are associated with shifting people in the workforce to Internet-based applications like email, word processing and customer relationship software.
These results indicate that the Internet offers huge potential for energy savings. We’re especially excited that Berkeley Lab has made its model publicly available so other researchers and experts can plug in their own assumptions and help refine and improve the results.
Of course, understanding the impact of shifting office applications to the cloud is only part of the story, which is why last week we hosted a summit called “How Green is the Internet?” to explore these questions in greater detail. At the summit, experts presented data on how the growth of Internet infrastructure, including devices like phones and tablets, can impact the environment. We also saw great excitement about the potential for entirely new Internet-enabled tools in areas like transportation, e-commerce and digital content to deliver huge energy and carbon savings. We’ve posted the videos from those sessions and invite you to take a look.
One of our goals in hosting the summit and supporting the Berkeley Lab study was to identify and encourage new research on this topic. We’ll continue to work to answer some of these questions, and we hope others will too.
Posted by Michael Terrell, Senior Policy Counsel, Energy & Sustainability
Category: Google | Jun 11, 2013
We’ve all been there: stuck in traffic, frustrated that you chose the wrong route on the drive to work. But imagine if you could see real-time traffic updates from friends and fellow travelers ahead of you, calling out “fender bender…totally stuck in left lane!” and showing faster routes that others are taking.
To help you outsmart traffic, today we’re excited to announce we’ve closed the acquisition of Waze. This fast-growing community of traffic-obsessed drivers is working together to find the best routes from home to work, every day.
The Waze product development team will remain in Israel and operate separately for now. We’re excited about the prospect of enhancing Google Maps with some of the traffic update features provided by Waze and enhancing Waze with Google’s search capabilities.
We’ll also work closely with the vibrant Waze community, who are the DNA of this app, to ensure they have what’s needed to grow and prosper.
The Waze community and its dedicated team have created a great source of timely road corrections and updates. We welcome them to Google and look forward to working with them in our ongoing effort to make a comprehensive, accurate and useful map of the world.
Posted by Brian McClendon, Vice President, Geo
Category: Google | Jun 9, 2013
Israel is now one of the world’s tech powerhouses, second only to Silicon Valley as a hub for startups, but it wasn’t always this way. Today, in honour of the 84th birthday of Professor Aviezri Fraenkel, we’re delighted to share a short film sharing his story of working on the WEIZAC, Israel’s first computer.
Short film produced with support from Google as part of our ongoing computing heritage series
The impetus to build a computer in Israel came from Professor Chaim Pekeris, an MIT-trained geophysicist and mathematician, who made it a condition of accepting a job at the then-fledgling Weizmann Institute. An illustrious committee was set up to consider Pekeris’s request and initially opinion was divided. In particular, Albert Einstein was skeptical a computer in Israel would receive sufficient use and queried whether the skilled resources to build it were available. It took much convincing by another committee member, mathematician and computing luminary John Von Neumann, before the project got the go-ahead.
Construction of the WEIZAC (“Weizmann Automatic Calculator”) got underway in late 1953 under the leadership of Professor Pekeris and Jerry Estrin. A protege of Von Neumann, Estrin arrived in Israel armed with design drawings based on the computer at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton. After advertising for recruits, a small team of engineers and technicians was assembled, among them Aviezri Fraenkel.
It took the team a lot of ingenuity to source the necessary materials. Some were imported, but others were clever adaptations, such as the thin copper strips that came from a small local bicycle-part shop! Despite such hurdles, progress was steady, and the major components were in place by the time Estrin returned to the U.S. 15 months later.
The WEIZAC performed its first calculation in October 1955 and was soon much in demand by Israeli scientists. It remained operational until the end of 1963—50 years ago this year. Nowadays it resides in the Weizmann Institute’s Ziskind Building as a fitting memorial to where computing in Israel began.
I have fond memories of passing by the WEIZAC every day when I studied at the Weizmann Institute, where I also had the privilege to attend a class by Professor Fraenkel. With the release of this short film, I’m delighted to be learning more from him about such an important chapter in Israel’s tech history.
Posted by Yossi Matias, Senior Engineering Director, Head of Israel R&D Centre
Category: Google | Jun 7, 2013
Dear Google users—
You may be aware of press reports alleging that Internet companies have joined a secret U.S. government program called PRISM to give the National Security Agency direct access to our servers. As Google’s CEO and Chief Legal Officer, we wanted you to have the facts.
First, we have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our data centers. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.
Second, we provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law. Our legal team reviews each and every request, and frequently pushes back when requests are overly broad or don’t follow the correct process. Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to our users’ data are false, period. Until this week’s reports, we had never heard of the broad type of order that Verizon received—an order that appears to have required them to hand over millions of users’ call records. We were very surprised to learn that such broad orders exist. Any suggestion that Google is disclosing information about our users’ Internet activity on such a scale is completely false.
Finally, this episode confirms what we have long believed—there needs to be a more transparent approach. Google has worked hard, within the confines of the current laws, to be open about the data requests we receive. We post this information on our Transparency Report whenever possible. We were the first company to do this. And, of course, we understand that the U.S. and other governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety—including sometimes by using surveillance. But the level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish.
Posted by Larry Page, CEO and David Drummond, Chief Legal Officer