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Getting to work on diversity at Google

Category: Google | May 28, 2014

We’ve always been reluctant to publish numbers about the diversity of our workforce at Google. We now realize we were wrong, and that it’s time to be candid about the issues. Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity, and it’s hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts. So, here are our numbers:

There are lots of reasons why technology companies like Google struggle to recruit and retain women and minorities. For example, women earn roughly 18 percent of all computer science degrees in the United States. Blacks and Hispanics make up under 10 percent of U.S. college grads and collect fewer than 5 percent of degrees in CS majors, respectively. So we’ve invested a lot of time and energy in education.

Among other things, since 2010 we’ve given more than $40 million to organizations working to bring computer science education to women and girls. And we’ve been working with historically black colleges and universities to elevate coursework and attendance in computer science. For example, this year Google engineer Charles Pratt was in-residence at Howard University, where he revamped the school’s Intro to CS curriculum.

But we’re the first to admit that Google is miles from where we want to be—and that being totally clear about the extent of the problem is a really important part of the solution. To learn more about our work on diversity—for our our workforce, for the web and for the tech leaders of the future—visit google.com/diversity.

Posted by Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President, People Operations

From: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/blogspot/MKuf/~3/9v0oSmAKztk/getting-to-work-on-diversity-at-google.html

Better data centers through machine learning

Category: Google | May 28, 2014

It’s no secret that we’re obsessed with saving energy. For over a decade we’ve been designing and building data centers that use half the energy of a typical data center, and we’re always looking for ways to reduce our energy use even further. In our pursuit of extreme efficiency, we’ve hit upon a new tool: machine learning. Today we’re releasing a white paper (PDF) on how we’re using neural networks to optimize data center operations and drive our energy use to new lows.

It all started as a 20 percent project, a Google tradition of carving out time for work that falls outside of one’s official job description. Jim Gao, an engineer on our data center team, is well-acquainted with the operational data we gather daily in the course of running our data centers. We calculate PUE, a measure of energy efficiency, every 30 seconds, and we’re constantly tracking things like total IT load (the amount of energy our servers and networking equipment are using at any time), outside air temperature (which affects how our cooling towers work) and the levels at which we set our mechanical and cooling equipment. Being a smart guy—our affectionate nickname for him is “Boy Genius”—Jim realized that we could be doing more with this data. He studied up on machine learning and started building models to predict—and improve—data center performance.

The mechanical plant at our facility in The Dalles, Ore. The data center team is constantly tracking the performance of the heat exchangers and other mechanical equipment pictured here.

What Jim designed works a lot like other examples of machine learning, like speech recognition: a computer analyzes large amounts of data to recognize patterns and “learn” from them. In a dynamic environment like a data center, it can be difficult for humans to see how all of the variables—IT load, outside air temperature, etc.—interact with each other. One thing computers are good at is seeing the underlying story in the data, so Jim took the information we gather in the course of our daily operations and ran it through a model to help make sense of complex interactions that his team—being mere mortals—may not otherwise have noticed.

A simplified version of what the models do: take a bunch of data, find the hidden interactions, then provide recommendations that optimize for energy efficiency.

After some trial and error, Jim’s models are now 99.6 percent accurate in predicting PUE. This means he can use the models to come up with new ways to squeeze more efficiency out of our operations. For example, a couple months ago we had to take some servers offline for a few days—which would normally make that data center less energy efficient. But we were able to use Jim’s models to change our cooling setup temporarily—reducing the impact of the change on our PUE for that time period. Small tweaks like this, on an ongoing basis, add up to significant savings in both energy and money.

The models can predict PUE with 99.6 percent accuracy.

By pushing the boundaries of data center operations, Jim and his team have opened up a new world of opportunities to improve data center performance and reduce energy consumption. He lays out his approach in the white paper, so other data center operators that dabble in machine learning (or who have a resident genius around who wants to figure it out) can give it a try as well.

Posted by Joe Kava, VP, Data Centers

From: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/blogspot/MKuf/~3/ZBOcWSSq_nM/better-data-centers-through-machine.html

Just press go: designing a self-driving vehicle

Category: Google | May 27, 2014

Ever since we started the Google self-driving car project, we’ve been working toward the goal of vehicles that can shoulder the entire burden of driving. Just imagine: You can take a trip downtown at lunchtime without a 20-minute buffer to find parking. Seniors can keep their freedom even if they can’t keep their car keys. And drunk and distracted driving? History.

We’re now exploring what fully self-driving vehicles would look like by building some prototypes; they’ll be designed to operate safely and autonomously without requiring human intervention. They won’t have a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, or brake pedal… because they don’t need them. Our software and sensors do all the work. The vehicles will be very basic—we want to learn from them and adapt them as quickly as possible—but they will take you where you want to go at the push of a button. And that’s an important step toward improving road safety and transforming mobility for millions of people.

It was inspiring to start with a blank sheet of paper and ask, “What should be different about this kind of vehicle?” We started with the most important thing: safety. They have sensors that remove blind spots, and they can detect objects out to a distance of more than two football fields in all directions, which is especially helpful on busy streets with lots of intersections. And we’ve capped the speed of these first vehicles at 25 mph. On the inside, we’ve designed for learning, not luxury, so we’re light on creature comforts, but we’ll have two seats (with seatbelts), a space for passengers’ belongings, buttons to start and stop, and a screen that shows the route—and that’s about it.

A very early version of our prototype vehicle, and an artistic rendering of our vehicle

We’re planning to build about a hundred prototype vehicles, and later this summer, our safety drivers will start testing early versions of these vehicles that have manual controls. If all goes well, we’d like to run a small pilot program here in California in the next couple of years. We’re going to learn a lot from this experience, and if the technology develops as we hope, we’ll work with partners to bring this technology into the world safely.

If you’d like to follow updates about the project and share your thoughts, please join us on our new Google+ page. We’re looking forward to learning more about what passengers want in a vehicle where their number one job is to kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Posted by Chris Urmson, Director, Self-Driving Car Project

From: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/blogspot/MKuf/~3/H7fUXVjwQjA/just-press-go-designing-self-driving.html

Through the Google lens: search trends May 16-22

Category: Google | May 23, 2014

This week people searched to learn more about unfamiliar faces and rising stars—on TV, courtside and even on our homepage.

Winner winner, TV dinner
People gave their “w” and “o” keys a workout this week as they turned to search to ask “who won…” in the season finales of reality show competitions “American Idol,” “The Voice” and “Dancing with the Stars.” After Josh Kaufman won “The Voice,” many searched to watch some of Kaufman’s past performances on the show, like [stay with me]. Meanwhile on “Dancing with the Stars,” searches for ice dancer [meryl davis] were almost as high this past week as in February, when she won an Olympic medal in Sochi. Fans of Davis looked to find out if she’s dating her “DWTS” partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy: searches for terms like [meryl davis maksim] and [meryl davis boyfriend] have been trending.

Basketball’s surprise star
NBA fans met a fresh face this week at the NBA Draft Lottery. The designated representative of the Milwaukee Bucks was Mallory Edens, the daughter of the team’s new co-owner. And, even though the Bucks slid to the #2 pick (after having the best odds to land #1), it seems Mallory pretty much won the Lottery anyway. And she wasn’t the only one who became an overnight sensation at the NBA’s annual festival of ping pong balls and sealed envelopes: searchers also looked for information about [anjali ranadive], the daughter of the Sacramento Kings’ owner, who was also at the draft.

In other sporting news, the [preakness 2014] raced to the top of the Google charts last weekend with more than 1 million searches, as Kentucky Derby-winning California Chrome won the second of three races on the way to the coveted Triple Crown. Looking ahead to the Belmont Stakes, fans are searching for [california chrome belmont] and [california chrome odds].

Inventions and discoveries
The subjects of not one but two Google doodles were on people’s minds this week. On Monday, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Rubik’s Cube with an interactive, 3D doodle. Presumably after killing a few minutes (or hours) of their workdays trying to solve the vexing puzzle, people searched to learn [how to solve the rubik’s cube] as well as [rubik’s cube record]. Then searchers looked for information on [mary anning], the paleontologist who was depicted uncovering a plesiosaur skeleton on our homepage on Wednesday. It’s fitting that Anning’s birthday celebration happened this week, since dinosaurs were already trending, thanks to the discovery of a new [titanosaur] dinosaur thought to be the biggest ever discovered.

Posted by Emily Wood, Google Blog Editor, who searched this week for [rei compression sack] and [smokestack sf]

From: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/blogspot/MKuf/~3/XFe_8EYPWzA/through-google-lens-search-trends-may.html

Bright ideas for an even better Bay Area

Category: Google | May 22, 2014

Local nonprofit heroes are making a difference in our community, and we want to do more to support them. As part of that mission, we recently launched a Bay Area Impact Challenge with a question: working together, what can we do to make the Bay Area an even better place to live?

Provide training and job opportunities for people with disabilities. Match surplus medical supplies with community clinics. Bring mobile showers and toilets to the homeless. These are just a few of the nearly 1,000 thoughtful and creative proposals we received.

A panel of community advisors—Honorable Aida Alvarez, Secretary Norman Mineta, Chief Teresa Deloach Reed, Reverend Cecil Williams and Barry Zito—joined Googlers to narrow down the pool to the 10 top finalists. Each project was selected for its community impact, ingenuity, scalability and feasibility.

Now we need your help deciding which projects to support. Which one do you think will make the biggest impact in our community? Vote now for the four ideas that inspire you.

Your votes will decide which projects get up and running in a big way—with $500,000 going to each of the top four projects, and $250,000 to the next six. An additional 15 nonprofits that entered the Challenge have already received $100,000 each in support of their work.

Cast your vote by 11:59 p.m. PST on June 2, and join us in celebrating the community spirit that makes the Bay Area a great place to call home.

Posted by Jacquelline Fuller, Director of Google.org

From: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/blogspot/MKuf/~3/lKLil-Dfg8o/bright-ideas-for-even-better-bay-area.html

Google+ Stories and Movies: memories made easier

Category: Google | May 20, 2014

A suitcase full of dirty clothes. A sad-looking house plant. And 437 photos and videos on your phone, tablet and camera. This is the typically messy scene after a vacation. And although we can’t do your laundry (thanks but no thanks), or run your errands (well, maybe a few), we’d still like to help. Enter Google+ Stories, which can automatically weave your photos, videos and the places you visited into a beautiful travelogue.

No more sifting through photos for your best shots, racking your brain for the sights you saw, or letting your videos collect virtual dust. We’ll just gift you a story after you get home. This way you can relive your favorite moments, share them with others, and remember why you traveled in the first place.

Stories will be available this week on Android and the web, with iOS coming soon. In the meantime you can browse my story below (click to start), or explore a few others by paraglider Tom de Dorlodot, DJ Steve Aoki and Allrecipes photographer Angela Sackett.

When it’s less about travel, and more about today’s events (like a birthday party, or baby’s first steps), Google+ Movies can produce a highlight reel of your photos and videos automatically—including effects, transitions and a soundtrack. Today we’re bringing Movies to Android, iOS and the web, so lots more people will receive these video vignettes.


A movie of my daughter’s first bike ride, created automatically by Google+

To get started with Stories and Movies, simply back up your photos and videos to Google+. And that’s it. Auto Awesome will get to work in the background, and you’ll get notified when a story or movie is ready.

In fact: if your photo library is already online, you may already have stories waiting for you. So look for the new app in Google Play, view the full list of improvements on Google+, and enjoy your walks down memory lane.

Posted by +Anil Sabharwal, Director of Product Management

From: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/blogspot/MKuf/~3/ijXL17qm8Qo/google-stories-and-movies-memories-made.html

Bringing the Rubik’s Cube to the next generation of problem solvers

Category: Google | May 19, 2014

As a designer, it’s always humbling when you encounter a perfect piece of design. Good design attracts our attention with its beauty, doesn’t need a user manual, is universally understood by anyone in the world, and is simple without sacrificing functionality.

In 1974, the world gave us one such piece of perfect design—the Rubik’s Cube. Budapest-based educator and inventor Ernő Rubik created the puzzle originally to help his students better understand spatial geometry. Released to the public in the 1980s, it quickly became an international obsession, bigger than hairspray and breakdancing combined. But the Rubik’s Cube is more than just a toy; it’s a puzzle waiting to be solved and a question waiting to be answered. Over the past 40 years, the cube has puzzled, frustrated, and fascinated so many of us, and has helped spark an interest in math and problem solving in millions of kids. That’s part of why so many of us at Google love the cube, and why we’re so excited to celebrate its 40th birthday this year.

As everyone knows (right??), there are 519 quintillion permutations for the Rubik’s cube, so May 19 seemed like a fine day to celebrate its 40th anniversary. To kick things off, we’re using some of our favorite web technologies (HTML5 and Three.js among others) to bring the cube to the world in the form of one of our most technically ambitious doodles yet. You can twist and turn it by dragging along its sides, but with full respect to all the speedcubers out there, we’ve included keyboard shortcuts:

Using the same technology that’s behind the doodle, we built Chrome Cube Lab, a series of Chrome Experiments by designers and technologists that reinterpret Rubik’s puzzle with the full power of the web. Create your own music with experiments 808Cube and SynthCube; make a custom, shareable cube of your own photos and GIFs with ImageCube; or send a scrambly message with the Type Cube. You can visit some of these experiments at the Liberty Science Center’s Beyond Rubik’s Cube exhibition, and if you’d like to explore the cube even further, consider borrowing the cube’s source code to build an experiment of your own.

We hope you enjoy getting to know the cube from a few new angles.

Posted by Richard The, Designer and a child of the ‘80s, Creative Lab New York

From: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/blogspot/MKuf/~3/eXsppexnMIA/bringing-rubiks-cube-to-next-generation.html

Through the Google lens: search trends May 9-15

Category: Google | May 16, 2014

Search is often the first place we turn when something unexpected or unusual happens. This week is no exception, as people looked for news on a celebrity smackdown, an interspecies showdown and everything in between.

When the news is news
A newsroom shuffle at the New York Times put the Grey Lady at the top of headlines around the country. Wednesday, it was announced that Jill Abramson, who served as executive editor since 2011 and was the first woman in that position, would be replaced by Dean Baquet (himself a “first”—no African-American has held the job before now). Searchers scrambled to find information on the story behind the story.

The Finals countdown
Basketball continues to be in the search spotlight as the NBA Finals approach. After a crazy, up-and-down, roller-coaster first round, the second round went more according to plan. Now we’re rewarded with matchups of the top two seeds in each conference finals, leading people to do some searching for the Spurs, Thunder, Heat and Pacers. While those teams are preparing for their next opponent, some teams are already making changes to prepare for next year; the Golden State Warriors announced a new coach, Steve Kerr, a former player with five championships under his belt. Searchers looked for information on [steve kerr rings] and [steve kerr bulls] (he won three of those rings in Chicago), as well as [steve kerr knicks]—rumor has it that Kerr turned down an offer to coach that team.

What a wonderful web
Legions of loyal cat people felt vindicated this week when a video of a family’s “hero cat” saving a four-year-old boy from a dog attack went viral. Not only were there hundreds of thousands of searches for [cat saves boy from dog], but the video now has more than 9 million views on YouTube. I personally vouch that it’s worth your time.

In other viral news, Macaulay Culkin was photographed wearing a T-shirt showing my own favorite famous person Ryan Gosling wearing a T-shirt of Macaulay Culkin back in his “Home Alone” days. People rushed to the web to see the photos, as well as create their own recursive images. As the A.V. Club says: great job, Internet!

Bey it ain’t so
An elevator surveillance video released by TMZ and showing Solange Knowles in a physical altercation with brother-in-law Jay-Z inspired a frenzy of speculation and search activity—and you could say it added one more problem to Jay’s list. Monday’s top trending topic—with more than 5 million searches!—was [tmz], and searches for terms like [solange attacks jay], [jay z fight] and [solange fight] were through the roof. Call it a testament to Bey and Jay’s status as celebrity royalty.

Posted by Emily Wood, Google Blog Editor, who searched this week for [what to see in valdez ak] and [cite news wikipedia]

From: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/blogspot/MKuf/~3/Oex4O7drttw/through-google-lens-search-trends-may-9.html

Hop on board—and go almost anywhere—with public transit on Google Maps

Category: Google | May 14, 2014

More than 70 percent of the world’s population doesn’t own a car1—a surprising fact for anyone who’s sat for what seems like hours on end in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Millions of people rely on public transit to get around. That’s why, since 2007, we’ve worked to include public transit routes and schedules in Google Maps. In fact, buses, trains, trams and subways included in Google Maps travel 200 million kilometers every day—that’s the equivalent of driving every single road in the world three times!2

Today, Google Maps is helping you get around on public transit even more easily with these additions:

  • We’ve added every single transit route in Great Britain to Google Maps—making it easier to get anywhere from Land’s End to John O’Groats.
  • On the other side of the globe, Vancouverites looking for sun can now get real-time updates on whether a bus to Kits is faster than one to Third Beach.
  • In Chicago, Cubs fans can now zip to and from Wrigley Field, armed with the real-time information they need to hop on a bus and avoid congestion on Lake Shore Drive.
  • And finally, just in time for the games, we’ve recently added transit information for every host city in Brazil. Can you say “GOOOAAALLLLL?!”

Our transit data spans six continents, 64 countries and more than 15,000 towns and cities worldwide. And we’re not done yet: Google Maps will continue to improve—serving people the information they need to get around town when and where they need it.

Posted by David Tattersall, Product Manager, Public Transit


1 This estimate is based on the most recent World Bank data on the number of passenger cars per 1,000 people throughout 100 countries and territories. Passenger cars refer to road motor vehicles, other than two-wheelers, intended for the carriage of passengers and designed to seat no more than nine people (including the driver).
2 CIA World Factbook

From: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/blogspot/MKuf/~3/5j5-t8hAqcM/hop-on-boardand-go-almost-anywherewith.html

Speak and learn with Spell Up, our latest Chrome Experiment

Category: Google | May 13, 2014

As a student growing up in France, I was always looking for ways to improve my English, often with a heavy French-to-English dictionary in tow. Since then, technology has opened up a world of new educational opportunities, from simple searches to Google Translate (and our backpacks have gotten a lot lighter). But it can be hard to find time and the means to practice a new language. So when the Web Speech API made it possible to speak to our phones, tablets and computers, I got curious about whether this technology could help people learn a language more easily.

That’s the idea behind Spell Up, a new word game and Chrome Experiment that helps you improve your English using your voice—and a modern browser, of course. It’s like a virtual spelling bee, with a twist.

We worked with game designers and teachers to make Spell Up both fun and educational. The goal of the game is to correctly spell the words you hear and stack them to build the highest word tower you can—letter by letter, word by word. The higher the tower gets, the more difficult the word challenges: You’ll be asked to pronounce words correctly, solve word jumbles and guess mystery words. You can earn bonuses and coins to level up faster.

Spell Up works best in Chrome on your computer and on Android phones and tablets. (It also works on iPhones and iPads, but you’ll need to type rather than talk.) Whether you’re just learning English or you’re already a pro, check it out! And if you’re a teacher, we encourage you to try it out in your classroom.

Posted by Xavier Barrade, Creative Lead and Polyglot, Creative Lab London

From: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/blogspot/MKuf/~3/wLypm2z2TBU/speak-and-learn-with-spell-up-our.html