News > Google

It takes a teacher to change the world one ‘big, messy problem’ at a time

Category: Google | Oct 13, 2016

Editor’s Note: Over the next few months, we’ll be shining light on the creative power of teachers worldwide. We’ll share a series of teacher stories, building towards a global online gathering of educators on December 3: Education on Air. Join the movement by sharing what teachers mean to you with #ItTakesATeacher

High school engineering teacher Frank Holthouse’s classroom would appeal to any sci-fi fan with a knack for tinkering. His students at Leyden High School are inventing things, using 3D printers and building robots using motors and sensors. His mission as a teacher is to help students learn how to apply engineering concepts and skills to solve real-life problems. We talked with Holthouse to hear how he helps his students give back to the community and acts as a mentor after his students graduate.

It takes a teacher to help students create solutions with social impact

Holthouse likes to find what he calls “big, messy problems” for students to solve. “If I give my students a task or a problem that’s not relevant to their lives, they won’t get much out of the experience,” he says. Many of the best issues he finds for his students to solve come through the local community. For instance, when the village board needed to replace the signs in the city parks, they called Holthouse. His students got to work immediately using software to design new signs for the parks. Says one of his 11th grade students, Uriel, “Mr. Holthouse encourages us to be persistent and have the confidence to solve problems on our own.”

Mr. Holthouse encourages us to be persistent and have the confidence to solve problems on our own.


11th grade student

There’s no shortage of problems for Holthouse’s students to solve. One of the all-time favorite projects for the students has been creating prosthetic hands for children in need. The students work in groups using Google Docs on Chromebooks to share the design and measurements for the hands. They print the prosthetics in class using 3D printers. The biggest payoff, says Holthouse, is when the students get to meet the children who will be wearing the hands. “I loved this project because we were able to apply what we had learned in class to make a positive impact in the life a little girl,” says Hilda, a 12th grade engineering student at Leyden High School.”

It takes a teacher to create ‘aha’ moments

While Holthouse’s classroom is hands-on, he describes his teaching style as hands-off. “I see my role more like that of a coach or facilitator,” he says, explaining that he empowers students to work through problems on their own and figure out creative solutions. “I love seeing that ‘aha’ moment when a student has finally solved a difficult problem or grasped a new concept.”

Holthouse is also a member of an advisory council that helps students find careers after high school. Through this program, a few of his students have even found jobs with companies who offered to pay for their college education. One of his students, Fabian Bartos, was even named to the 30 under 30 list by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers — a major accomplishment for a high school student. X’s work included designing and 3D printing a fully functional violin, which the student then learned to play.

[edu] ITAT leyden2

“While teaching wasn’t the first career I had in mind — originally, I wanted to be a musician — the technical side of music led me to engineering and inspired me to teach,” says Holthouse. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen firsthand that there’s more than one path to becoming a teacher. Many of the educators we’ve spoken to, like Holthouse, come from unconventional backgrounds and they bring their passions and diverse interests into the classroom, inspiring students to think outside-the-box.

We invite you to join this movement by sharing what teachers mean to you with #ItTakesATeacher and seeing your own and others’ stories re-shared at To hear from Frank live, join us for Education on Air December 3rd.


Get polling place and ballot information quickly and easily

Category: Google | Oct 13, 2016

Voting matters — and history proves it. In 1839, the Massachusetts gubernatorial election was decided by just two votes out of 102,066. The same was the case in a 1974 New Hampshire Senate race — out of 233,363 votes, only two made the difference. And in 2008, an Alaskan Congressional race was decided by a single vote.

With Election Day just 25 days away, it’s time to make your vote count. Throughout the summer, we’ve helped voters find information about how to register and how to vote, in both English and Spanish. Now, as you prepare to head to the polls, we want to make sure you know where to vote and who’s on your ballot when you get there.

Google, for the election

From President and Vice President, to Congressperson and County Commissioner, a simple search for “who’s on my ballot” will help you find info on the candidates, as well as detailed information on your state’s referenda. You can tap on a candidate’s name from your ballot to find information about them, including their party and website.


The final step: showing up! With various polling places popping up across your hometown, we want to make sure you find the info you need from state to state. Starting today and as we continue to add data from each state over the next couple of weeks, whether you’re planning to vote early or in person on November 8, just search “where to vote” and Google will display a polling place location finder as well as voting ID requirements.


While people can find this crucial information right in Google Search, we’re also opening this data up to other organizations for free. From technology companies like Uber, Twitter, Expedia and to nonprofits like Pew Charitable TrustsThe Voting Information Project, and Democracy Works’ TurboVote Challenge, organizations of all shapes and sizes can use our products and the Google Civic Information API to create tools that get this information into the hands of as many voters possible.

We hope these features will help you get the information you need, when you need it. Your vote matters, so make it count.


Google Italy’s “Safer Internet” tour

Category: Google | Oct 13, 2016

Safer Internet tour bus

To mark Cybersecurity Month, Google Italy is going on tour — a bus tour, that is. Our Digital Safety bus will visit five Italian cities, bringing you Google-trained experts and representatives from the Communications Police and the consumer association Altroconsumo.

They’ll be on hand to offer you concrete suggestions on how to better manage your online presence, showing you the safety features of your Google account and how to check that it’s secure. You’ll also receive hints and tips on how to find out more about digital safety. (And, as a bonus, you’ll have the chance to try out painting in virtual reality.)

We’ll be in Milan, Cagliari, Naples, Bologna and Rome on select dates in October and November — for all the latest, follow the hashtag #VivInternetAlSicuro.

Safer Internet tour team in front of the bus

The Safer Internet team gets ready to tour Italy

We’ve also partnered with the Italian Academy of the Internet Code to host events at universities in those cities, where we’ll be encouraging debate on issues of online privacy and security. We’ve invited representatives of the Italian data protection authority, government officials and academics to participate in each two-day event. There will also be workshops designed for students, graduates, researchers, professionals and entrepreneurs.

Of course, even if you can’t visit us on tour, you can still protect yourself online: Just head over to My Account to get started.


Turn that frown upside down, with suggested rotations and more

Category: Google | Oct 12, 2016

Today we’re bringing you four new features for Google Photos — three new ways for you to relive and the share moments that matter, and a quick way to fix some of those pesky sideways photos in your collection.

First, Google Photos will now help you rediscover old memories of the people in your most recent photos. As your photo library continues to grow, we hope that features like this one make it easier to look back at your fondest memories.


Second, we’re making it easier to look over the most recent highlights from your photos. If you take a lot of photos of your child, for example, you may occasionally get a card showing the best ones from the last month. (Hint hint: grandparents would love to see these!)


Third, we’ve always made animations from photos, but now we make animations from your videos, too. And not just any videos. We look for segments that capture activity — a jump into the pool, or even just an adorable smile — and create short animations that are easy to share.


Finally, when we find sideways pictures in your collection, you’ll get a card that helps you easily put them right side up.


For all of these features, you don’t have to do a thing – machine learning in Google Photos does the work for you. Cards will automatically show up in the Assistant tab of Google Photos when they’re ready.

All features are available now on Android, iOS and the web.


Introducing Sprayscape: a perfectly imperfect VR-ish camera app for Android

Category: Google | Oct 12, 2016

Last year, we launched Android Experiments, a celebration of the creative, ingenious, and surprising things developers are making with Android. With so many great projects being sent in each month, we were inspired to make and share an experiment of our own. We love virtual reality (VR). And we love taking pictures. So why not try smashing the two together?

Sprayscape - a perfectly imperfect VR-ish camera

Sprayscape is a quick hack using the phone’s gyroscope to take pictures on the inside of a 360-degree sphere. Just point your phone and tap the screen to spray faces, places, or anything else onto your canvas.

Like what you’ve captured? You can easily share your creations via a link in a text message or on social media with friends. They can jump into your scapes and have a look around using their phones or even Google Cardboard for a more immersive experience.

Download Sprayscape on Google Play to get started or, if you’re feeling curious, take a look at the open-source code to see how Sprayscape works.


Helping schools transform, together

Category: Google | Oct 12, 2016

Over the past few years we’ve had the privilege to work closely with thousands of schools that are seeking to improve and innovate with the help of technology. Every school is different, but we’ve heard a lot of common themes from educators: that change is hard; that change is about a whole lot more than just technology; and that obstacles are often similar across districts. School leaders face many of the same challenges and opportunities, but often have limited ways to share with — and learn from — each other.

That’s why we’ve created a new hub for school leaders to share ideas, resources, and stories: The Google for Education Transformation Center.

Defining the elements of school change

We worked alongside U.S. education leaders from across all 50 states to create a transformation framework that can help guide schools on their journeys to improve education through innovation and technology. As we talked with these leaders, they emphasized seven areas that are critical to consider when tackling the change process:

  • Vision – School change only happens when there is a strong vision at the start. When a school has a clear vision, it means the leader has ensured that the school and wider community are working together toward shared goals for the future.

  • Learning – School leaders empower their teams to create a set of instructional practices, curricula, assessments, and learning experiences that put students at the center – that engage learners deeply and meet their individual and collective needs.

  • Culture – Successful school leaders create structures, rituals, stories, and symbols that foster a culture of innovation and encourage people to learn from failure and success.

  • Technology – Technology is only one enabler of school change, but it’s a critical part. School leaders find, test, and gain their team’s support for the right technology (tools and processes) to meet the school’s vision.

  • Professional Development – Teachers have a lot on their plates. School leaders provide educators with effective professional development and ongoing coaching focused on applying tools and practices to meet student needs.

  • Funding & Sustainability – School leaders create a sustainable budget, identify a range of funding sources, and seek savings and reallocation opportunities that align directly to student goals.

  • Community – Schools serve diverse communities made up of parents, families, businesses, government, nonprofits, and residents. Throughout all stages of the transformation process, leaders ensure these partners support the school and the vision.

Successful school leaders considered all of these elements simultaneously. Michael Lubelfeld, Superintendent of Deerfield Public School District 109 said, “Narrow school improvement models don’t work. At Deerfield we’ve adopted a much more holistic school improvement planning process that utilizes the power and collective capacity of student, staff, parent, and community voice.”

Share what’s worked (and what hasn’t)

Change is often a gradual process, but we hope that helping school leaders share ideas will accelerate their school transformations. I’m excited we can provide a platform where they can learn from each other.

Nick Polyak, the Superintendent of Leyden High School District 212 in Illinois explained how important it has been for his district to learn from others. He said “There are great ideas and great programs all over the world.  When we are willing to share and learn from one another, all of our students benefit. We have benefited from visiting other districts and adapting their programs for our schools.”

There are great ideas and great programs all over the world. When we are willing to share and learn from one another, all of our students benefit.

Nick Polyak

Superintendent, Leyden HS District 212

To continue to improve the Google for Education Transformation Center, we’re asking you, our community of education leaders, to share your own resources. These might include stories (like how you worked with your team to develop a strong vision), templates (like your district’s schedule of teacher-led professional development), or ideas (like how you raised funds to get WiFi on school buses). We’ll work with educators to review submissions as we continue to build out the site. Submit by November 23rd to have your ideas considered for inclusion in an upcoming series of blog posts around our Education on Air online conference.

[edu] transformation gif


Jump: Using omnidirectional stereo for VR video

Category: Google | Oct 12, 2016

Virtual reality makes it possible for you to explore new worlds, faraway places, famous museums, or even be present in the front row of a concert or sporting event in another country. But achieving high quality, stereoscopic 360 video capture for virtual reality has required custom complex, high-end camera systems and hours of manual work in post-production.

In 2015, we introduced Jump, Google’s platform for VR video capture to empower a wide range of creators to create great VR videos. Today, we’re publishing “Jump: Virtual Reality Video”, a research paper (with many authors!) that shares what we’ve learned. We’ll present it at SIGGRAPH Asia in December as well.

With Jump, we built an omnidirectional stereo (ODS) video system. ODS provides a seamless projection that is both panoramic (360) and stereoscopic (3D), allowing the viewer to look in any direction. ODS can be stored in the same format as traditional video, making it ideal for post-production, streaming, and playback on mobile devices. Although the ODS projection model has been around for some time, producing VR video using ODS presents a number of challenges.

First, ODS was not originally designed for VR. Playback in a head-mounted display (HMD) introduces distortions, which can make it hard for our brains to fuse the images seen in the left and right eyes. We carefully analyzed these distortions to determine practical limits on distance and viewing angle and to ensure comfortable playback in HMDs.

There was also no practical system for producing ODS video. To develop the Jump camera rig, we analyzed design space parameters such as the number of cameras needed, field of view, and rig sizes to create a “sweet spot” design that can be built with off-the-shelf cameras (it’s a sweet 16). These efforts are the basis for GoPro Odyssey, the first Jump rig.


The GoPro Odyssey

Lastly, producing seamless stitches from multiple cameras is very challenging. We developed an algorithm that automatically stitches seamless high-quality ODS video by performing view interpolation based on a new approach for temporally coherent optical flow. This algorithm is the core of Jump Assembler, which has processed millions of frames of professionally produced VR video.

Here are a few animations that show how Jump Assembler works:


The ODS projection generates a virtual mosaic that approximates our view as we turn our head in any direction, providing a 360-degree VR video experience.


Parts of the ODS projection are captured by the cameras in the Jump rig. The parts in between the rig cameras must be synthesized using a technique called view interpolation.

At the core of our view interpolation algorithm is a new temporally coherent optical flow algorithm. Optical flow computes how the images on the left transform into the images on the right, allowing us to produce any viewpoint in between.

For more information on Jump, visit To read our SIGGRAPH Asia 2016 technical paper about the development of Jump, visit


Building on Surveillance Reform

Category: Google | Oct 12, 2016

Today, we’ve updated our Transparency Report on government requests for user data.  Globally, we received 44,943 government requests for information regarding 76,713 accounts during the first half of 2016.  We provided user information in response to 64% of those requests, which remains unchanged from the previous reporting period (i.e. the second half of 2015).  We also received our first ever requests from the following countries: Algeria, Belarus, Cayman Islands, El Salvador, Fiji, and Saudi Arabia. In addition, pursuant to the USA Freedom Act, the FBI lifted a gag restriction on an NSL issued in the second half of 2015. To reflect this, we have updated the range of NSLs received in that period — July to December 2015 — from 0-499 to 1-499.

As we have noted in the past, when we receive a request for user information, we review it carefully and only provide information within the scope and authority of the request.  The privacy and security of the data that users store with Google is central to our approach.  Before producing data in response to a government request, we make sure it strictly follows the law, for example to compel us to disclose content in criminal cases we require the government use a search warrant, and that it complies with Google’s strict policies (to prevent overreach that can compromise users’ privacy).  

In the US, in the current reporting period, Google saw an increase in the number of accounts covered by requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) (21,000-21,499), compared to the previous reporting period (16,000-16,499). (Note that the USA Freedom Act authorizes companies like Google to report these figures in ranges, but not precise numbers.) 

In recent years, the United States has implemented or enacted meaningful surveillance reforms.  And the U.S. Congress is beginning the process of assessing potential reforms to Section 702 of FISA, which authorizes surveillance of non-U.S. persons outside of the United States.   We look forward to working together with others in our industry on continuing surveillance reform in the U.S. and around the world.


Curio-cité Episode 1: Explore the forgotten corners of Paris

Category: Google | Oct 12, 2016

Our curiosity pushes us to try new experiences: to learn, to grow, to change our point of view, or simply to have fun.

Luckily for us, our cities are full of opportunities for new experiences. But sometimes, to get ourselves started and discover these secrets, we need a guide to inspire and motivate us.

That’s why Google Arts & Culture has created Curio-cité, a way of rediscovering our cities by following along with guides, artists and experts.

The first episode, which takes place in Paris, invites you to visit ten different hidden corners. Put on your boots and visit the mysterious “underground lake” of the Opera Garnier, which inspired the Phantom of the Opera. Stroll down the Petite Ceinture, the obsolete railway that once circled Paris. Explore the Tour Paris 13, the largest collective exhibition of street art ever produced.

You’re also invited accompany David de Rueda, urban explorer and photographer, on a journey to even more unusual places — like a 360° immersive tour of the historic Papeteries de la Seine, a paper mill that was closed in 2011. Explore digital content and exhibitions curated by David and our partner, the City of Paris.

Curio-cité is available for free on the web, iOS and Android, and for a full 360° experience, you can put on your Google Cardboard.

And if Curio-cité inspires you to go on a real-life urban adventure of your own, we’ll be inviting a few lucky explorers to explore more of hidden Paris. To learn more, follow Google France on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ or use the hashtag #GoogleCuriocité.

And who knows, maybe we’ll meet up again in a few months to explore a different city…


Introducing Project Fi’s group plan

Category: Google | Oct 11, 2016

With Project Fi, wireless service is simple and easy — you get seamless access to three 4G LTE networks, use data abroad at no extra cost, and you send and receive texts and calls across multiple devices. Last week we expanded our device options to include Google’s new Pixel phones, and today we’re excited to introduce Project Fi’s group plan: an easy way to share Project Fi with the people who matter most to you.

With Project Fi’s group plan, you can now have up to six people on one plan, making it easier to pay your bill, track data usage, and manage settings for everyone, all from one place. Project Fi’s group plan comes with all the features you know and love, along with a couple extras.

Easily add new members

Whether it’s your group of friends from college or your family, you can invite new members to your plan at any time at $15/month per line for Fi Basics (unlimited talk and text). And just like with individual plans, you only pay for the data you use at the same $10/GB rate. If you end up using less than you planned for, you’ll get the unused data credited back in dollars and cents.

Project Fi_Highlights.png

There are no commitments or contracts, just as with individual plans. Members can easily join and leave a plan as they please without having to worry about fees. And when it’s time to pay, there’s just one bill with straightforward pricing.

View and manage data usage

With Project Fi’s group plan, we put plan owners and members in control of their data. Members can easily view their own data usage from the Project Fi app, and managers can view usage per member. No more guessing how much data each person used!

Project Fi_CurrentCycle.png

Both members and managers can set data notifications to help pace their usage. And managers can add data safeguards for even more control — you can set monthly allowances per member and pause data service if a member goes overboard. We also show data usage breakdowns per app to help you figure out what’s driving usage and make informed decisions.

Project Fi_MonthlyData.png

Phones are an important part of any group plan which is why in addition to supporting Google’s new Pixel devices, we’ll continue to offer the Nexus 5X and 6P through the Project Fi site. To help you set up for your first group plan, we’re offering $100 off the Nexus 6P, and $150 off the Nexus 5X, when you buy and activate through Project Fi.

Project Fi’s group plan is available starting today. For those of you who are already a part of Project Fi, you can start your group by inviting people (including existing Fi subscribers) from your Fi account page. For those thinking about joining Project Fi, you can visit our website to learn more.