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Staying safe this hurricane season

Category: Google | May 30, 2014

Earlier this month, Vivek Maheshwari was heading to the airport after a business trip in Denver when he received a public alert notification on his phone telling him there was a tornado heading his way. Luckily, the storm was still a few miles off, so he was able to find an alternate route to the airport and make it home safely.

Easy and timely access to information can make a huge difference in times of crisis—whether to help people like Vivek get out of harm’s way, or to help those affected after a disaster has occurred. The web can help by providing access to official alerts from government organizations, news reports and on-the-ground updates from social media. The key is making sure that all that information can get to those who are affected—as quickly as possible.

That’s one of the things our Crisis Response Team focuses on. Since 2010, we’ve been working to make disaster-related information immediately available and useful in a crisis, through tools like Public Alerts, Crisis Map and Person Finder. And since next week marks the start of hurricane season in the North Atlantic, we thought we’d provide a few tips to help you prepare for potential summer disasters—from tropical storms to wildfires to floods.

Make sure you’ll receive Public Alerts
Google Public Alerts, launched two years ago, is a tool that sends people alerts from authoritative sources like the U.S. National Weather Service or the Japan Meteorological Agency during emergencies. They’re accessible through the Google search app on your mobile devices and Google Chrome on your computer, as well as in search results for related queries and on Google Maps when relevant.

People have used Public Alerts to get to safety before a landslide in Colombia, set up sandbags before a thunderstorm in Utah, and get off the road before an ice storm in Kentucky. To make sure you get the information you need to know when you need it, get Google Now on your Android device, iOS device, or computer.

Public Alerts are now available in seven countries (U.S., Australia, Canada, Colombia, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan) and will continue to roll out to new countries this year.

Install emergency preparedness apps
There are a number of great apps which can help you prepare for or outlast an emergency. For example, a flashlight app can be useful if the power goes out and you don’t have access to a regular flashlight (use a regular flashlight if you can to conserve your phone’s battery). The first-aid and disaster preparedness apps from the Red Cross have a lot of valuable information. And the official FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) app has information on how to stay safe during a disaster, the locations of FEMA disaster recovery stations, and more.

And remember, when bad weather is on the way, keep your phone plugged in and follow this advice to conserve battery life on Android. If you’re using an iOS device, try these tips.

Get helpful gadgets
A waterproof phone case can help protect your phone during floods or heavy rains and a portable solar-powered charger will help keep your phone’s battery alive. It may also be a good idea to invest in a cell phone signal booster which gives you a greater chance of connecting to an operational cell tower.

Of course, tech can only take you so far, so make sure you have the basics (like a disaster supplies kit and a family emergency plan) covered too—Ready.gov is a great resource.

While it’s impossible to predict the weather, we hope these tips help you and your family prepare for the possibility of things going wrong. Stay safe this summer!

Posted by Payal Patel, Google Crisis Response Team

From: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/blogspot/MKuf/~3/8TrTnoi8Lr4/staying-safe-this-hurricane-season.html

A new learning environment at Mater Dei in Brazil

Category: Google | May 29, 2014

We launched Google Apps for Education because we believed it would help students learn more collaboratively and help educators spend less time on administration and more time on teaching. It’s been thrilling to see how some schools take “going Google” to the next level and into their own hands—coming up with even more creative ways of incorporating technology in education. Recently we came across one of these schools: Colégio Mater Dei in Brazil.

In 2013, Mater Dei deployed Google Apps for Education as part of a move to incorporate technology into the academic environment. After they started to see early results, they came to Google with a plan: create a space on campus that’s designed from the ground up to be a technology-powered learning center for K-12 students. Last week, that idea became a reality when Mater Dei launched what we’re now calling the Google Learning Space.

Transforming a part of their campus that used to be a traditional library, the school set up a high-performance wireless network in a room full of bright, colorful cushions and chairs where students can brainstorm, meet to discuss projects and talk with their teachers. There are two smart TVs with Chromecast installed, so students can project assignments, presentations and videos easily. There’s a library of tablets and Chromebooks that students can use, all featuring Google Play and Google Apps.

High school history students collaborate on tablets in the Google Learning Space

The school’s ultimate goal is to increase collaboration amongst students and encourage them to think more creatively instead of learning by rote memorization. And so far, the results seem to be good—the school is already experimenting with new ways to teach and learn. For example, kindergarten teachers are helping students “visit” countries around the world with Google Earth and the Cultural Institute. Electronics teacher Andre Godoy is using Google Sites and Google Glass to help his students build a formula that can move a robot with a swipe of the finger. And biology teachers have started using the Google Play app Biodigital Human to help bring anatomy to life in 3D; students can add, remove and manipulate each organ of the body using the app, gaining an understanding of various diseases and how treatments are developed. Best of all, students and teachers seem more energized and excited to participate in class.

Grade school students work with interactive biology apps from the Google Play Store

The Google Learning Space is just one example of how bringing technology into the classroom can have a real and immediate impact on both teachers and students. We’re excited to keep working on products that can help kids learn—in Brazil and around the world.

Posted by Milton Larsen Burgese, Google Head of Education, Google Brazil

From: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/blogspot/MKuf/~3/SYOFRs9uoLs/a-new-learning-environment-at-mater-dei.html

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