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In our genes: How Google Cloud helps the Broad Institute slash the cost of research

Category: Google | Feb 12, 2018

The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the pioneering biomedical and genomics research center, has been a valued collaborator since the early days of Google Cloud Platform (GCP). We helped them move their genomics data storage and analysis from an on-premises data center to the cloud; they helped us make GCP a useful and cost-effective place to conduct some of the most important research that science has to offer.

It’s been a privilege to support the Broad in their mission to advance our understanding of the biology and treatment of human disease, and to help lay the groundwork for a new generation of therapies. Today, we’re thrilled to be a part of an important milestone for Broad and the genomics community: On GCP, the cost of running Broad’s GATK Best Practices pipeline has been reduced to a little over $5 per genome.

Broad is one of the largest genomic sequencing centers around; on average a human genome goes onto a sequencer every 10 minutes. To date, Broad has processed more than 76,000 genomes, generating 24TB of data per day, and stores more than 36PB of data on GCP.

Once genomic data comes off a sequencer, processing and analysis is done in several steps. Those steps are strung together in an automated pipeline called GATK Best Practices.


When Broad first brought the GATK Best Practices pipeline to GCP in 2015, the cost to run it was $45. Since then, Broad has steadily brought down the cost by twiddling a variety of GCP knobs and dials to arrive at a 90 percent cost reduction while maintaining (and even improving) the quality of the output. Here’s a sampling of what they did:

  • Task splitting. In Broad’s on-premises environment, disk ate the lion’s share of its computing budget, so it strung together compute tasks so they could be performed by the same machine, minimizing disk access. However, any two tasks could have vastly different compute and memory usage profiles. In the cloud, Broad drove higher utilization and lower costs by appropriately sizing the machines to the task at hand (even though it involved more data transfers between machines). This resulted in a cost savings of approximately 30 percent.

  • Preemptible VMs. Broad’s genomics pipeline is short-lived and fault-tolerant, so it can take advantage of Preemptible VMs without worrying about shutdowns due to demand spikes. Broad programmed the pipeline to use Preemptible VMs, which are 80 percent cheaper than non-preemptible instances, by default. This resulted in an extra 35 percent savings.

  • Persistent Disk provides durable HDD and SSD storage to GCP instances, and allows Broad to match its workloads with appropriately-sized and performant storage. Behold another 15 percent savings.

  • Data streaming. Verily Life Sciences contributed code to the HTSJDK, a library that underlies Broad’s GATK. HTSJDK lets algorithms read data directly from a Google Cloud Storage bucket, so the job requires less disk space. The cost of Broad’s production pipeline is now down to $5!  


Most recently, Broad released the open-source version 4.0 of GATK, and researchers of all backgrounds, including those without computational training, can access the GATK Best Practices Pipeline through FireCloud, Broad’s cloud-based analysis portal. The pipeline includes all the cost optimizations that Broad has achieved with its production pipeline, and is ready to run on preloaded example datasets.

And while all users can access FireCloud at no cost, cloud providers do charge their own fees for data storage and processing. To help make it easier for more researchers to leverage this critical work, we’re offering a $250 credit per user toward compute and storage costs to the first 1,000 applicants. You can learn more on the FireCloud website.

We continue to be amazed by the progress the Broad Institute enables in the field of genomics, and are so happy it chose GCP as its cloud infrastructure partner. Learn more about the GATK Best Practices pipeline by reading the Broad’s blog post.


Helping young women overcome hurdles to learning computer science

Category: Google | Feb 12, 2018

Sophie Charlotte Kuenecke never thought she’d be able to program a robot. But after she managed to do it by age 12, she found a passion for robotics and didn’t look back—and focused her studies, and ultimately her career, on that passion. At university, Sophie Charlotte discovered Open Roberta, an online platform developed by German research institution Fraunhofer IAIS that helps people learn to program by explaining complex concepts in simple ways. Open Roberta is supported by our Grow with Google initiative, which trains people and businesses on important digital skills so that they can embrace new opportunities ahead. Sophie Charlotte now uses Open Roberta to teach female students about robotics, hoping to inspire them to follow a career path in programming. “It doesn’t matter if you are a boy or a girl, what matters is what you want to achieve and what you are willing to do to get there,” she says.

Sophie Charlotte - Inspiring young women to follow a career in computer programming

There are still barriers preventing students—especially girls and children from lower-socioeconomic backgrounds—to learn computer science. In the classes that she teachers, Sophie helps her students to overcome these hurdles, and through our support of the Open Roberta initiative, we’re also supporting Sophie’s goal: that one day these hurdles won’t exist.


#teampixel photographer Dave East heads to Iceland

Category: Google | Feb 9, 2018

This week, #teampixel heads north of the equator on a trip with photographer, Dave East. Check out his photos from Iceland (shot in subzero temperatures!) that captured everything from giant glaciers to epic waterfalls, and hear about why he loves his Pixel camera.

Can you tell us about your recent trip to Iceland shooting on Pixel 2 XL?
Iceland was absolutely surreal. It is one of the most amazing places I have ever been to. The landscapes feel like another planet. Shooting on the Pixel 2 was just so easy, the camera is so good that  when we were in a hurry I didn’t even take out my DSLR because I knew the shots were going to be just as great on the Pixel 2.

What are your favorite features on Pixel’s camera?
The portrait mode is amazing, it really gets the sense of depth perfectly. I also just think the photos are so crisp, it feel not like a phone camera at all.

What piece of advice do you have for capturing great shots?
For landscape work, check that your horizons are straight and that there is some depth to the shot or leading lines that draw your eye to something in particular. And make sure that you are shooting in a good time of day and that it is not too bright.

Anything else you’d like to share with us and the #teampixel community?
Just keep shooting, keep creating and keep exploring. My favourite thing in the world is travelling to new places and seeing new things.

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The High Five: roses are red, violets are blue, five top searches for you

Category: Google | Feb 9, 2018

Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
Here are this week’s top searches for you:
The Dow is down, but a rocket went up to the skies
We’re staring deeply into our valentines’ eyes
While the world’s best athletes go for the gold
We met the new Gerber baby, just one year old.
Now on to the trends, before my rhyme becomes drab—
All the data we use comes from Google News Lab.

Valentine’s Day

Between flowers, a big teddy bear, a beef jerky bouquet, Valentine’s Jordans and chocolate-covered strawberries, there’s something for everyone on the list of top-searched Valentine’s Day gifts.

New spokesbaby

One-year-old Lucas Warren became a celebrity this week when it was announced that he’s the first Gerber baby with Down Syndrome. Meanwhile, another baby made her debut in the limelight: Kylie Jenner’s daughter, Stormi. Other top searched babies this week were Nick Foles’ baby, Janet Jackson’s baby, and Khloe Kardashian’s baby.

All eyes on Pyeongchang

Figure skating is the most searched Olympic sport in 48 states. The outliers are Alaska and Montana (where snowboarding’s at the top), Nebraska (where curling reigns) and Minnesota (where ice hockey wins all).

Falcon Heavy

After his foray into space this week, search interest in “Elon Musk rocket” took off, and was 350 percent higher than interest in “Elon Musk car.” People searched for famous rockets—other than Falcon Heavy—this week, too: Flat-earther rocket, Saturn V rocket, Sea Dragon rocket and Soyuz rocket.

Ups and (Dow)ns

As the markets went on a rollercoaster, search interest in Dow Jones Industrial Average was 1,700 percent higher than search interest in NASDAQ, and people were searching for “stock market” 1,400 percent more than “economy.”


Flourish helps journalists create easy data visualizations

Category: Google | Feb 8, 2018

Data visualization brings more eyes, attention and understanding to complex stories. When it works well, it can make a story crystal-clear. But it takes effort, coding and time—and is sometimes out of reach for all but the biggest newsrooms.

One easy way to make data visualizations is through Flourish, a tool that helps you design and create graphics to embed on a website or export as a SVG file. We’re making Flourish free for journalists, so that it’ll be easier for newsrooms of all sizes and budgets to create their own data visualizations.


We’re also working with design studio Pitch Interactive to make free virtual reality templates for newsrooms in Flourish. Here’s an example: The visual above shows related Google searches for TV shows. Any journalist in a newsroom could use that template, but with different data. For example, the visual below shows searches for U.S. Senators before this year’s midterm elections. (And here’s the visual code on GitHub).


Traditionally, creating the same visual with different data is a tricky job involving developers. Flourish makes that easy—visuals can just be reused as they are, or you can create “stories” to narrate the visual by adding captions and leading the user on a visual journey.

th Flourish, journalists with no coding experience can make high-end interactive graphics  and stories with no tech support—check out these tutorial videos for extra help. Crucially for the data journalism community, Flourish lets newsrooms share templates with each other. Though newsrooms can create some private templates, they can open-source others.

Flourish was soft-launched last year, and since then, the development team worked with designers and data journalists to build the launch version that has just been released. In that time, hundreds of journalists and newsrooms have signed up to use Flourish.

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Examples of how newsrooms have used data visualizations in their reporting.

Flourish is just one of a series of tools and resources in our News Lab data journalism toolkit. Other tools include Tilegrams, Data Gif Maker and the Data Journalism Handbook. Look for more this year as we work to make it easier for data journalists to investigate, process, visualize and surface their data across the news industry.


Danish business embraces digital to create jobs and save lives

Category: Google | Feb 8, 2018

During their years in the armed forces, Mark Nilsson and Anders Kjærsgaard used their first response training to save lives. When they left the service, they wanted to transfer those skills to everyday civilian life. So they set up First-8, a company that delivers first aid training to businesses and individuals, with ex-army personnel as instructors.

They knew that the internet was a great way to reach customers, but they also knew they were missing basic skills to market online so they decided to sign up for Google Succes online, a program that taught them how to improve SEO (search engine optimization), use Google AdWords to create online ads, and measure their ad performance with Google Analytics.

After joining the program in 2016, Mark and Anders have increased the number of people trained from 360 to 3,200. They’ve also grown from two to 30 staff, recruiting many ex-army people, and moved the business from their living rooms to two new offices and three warehouses.

First-8: creating job opportunities and saving lives

First-8: creating job opportunities and saving lives

First-8 is just one example of how Google is helping businesses succeed with digital. Since launching Succes Online in partnership with Dansk Industri, Dansk Erhverv, Erhvervsstyrelsen, FDIH, ITB, Ivækst and PwC og ASE three years ago, we’ve trained more than 30,000 people across 73 Danish municipalities, with 39 percent of small businesses reporting improved business results, revenues or new customers as a result of the training. In Northern Europe alone, the number of jobs requiring digital skills will double in the next 15 years, with an additional 200,000 jobs created. We want to play our part by equipping people and businesses like First-8 with the skills they need to grow their business or career, and take advantage of these new opportunities.

“Succes Online has given us the resources and opportunities we needed to develop our business and take it in a new direction,” says Mark. “We never imagined that our experience in the army would lead to us building a business that can help save people’s lives.”


Feel the love this Valentine’s Day with Google Photos

Category: Google | Feb 7, 2018

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, which means love is in the air—and with Google Photos, there are a few ways you can get creative and share your memories with all of your loved ones.

Introducing create-your-own themed movies

Beginning today, you can turn your photos into themed movies via the app or the web. A themed movie brings together photos about a loved one or an important event, and expertly edits them together and sets them to music. You might have seen Google Photos automatically create these movies for you before—but now, you have the ability to create one whenever you want. With a range of themes, from “They Grow Up So Fast” to the feline favorite “Meow Movie,” it’s the perfect way to celebrate all of your favorite people, furry friends, and treasured moments.

Guided movies gallery

And in honor of Cupid, we even have a Valentine’s Day themed movie for you and your sweetheart.

Google Photos: Valentine's Day Guided Movie

Making a themed movie is simple: just open the Google Photos app, go to the Assistant tab, and tap Movie to get started. You can also just visit this link. After you’ve chosen your theme and the people (or pets) who will star in the movie, you’re ready to go. We’ll use machine learning to select photos based on your choices, add a soundtrack and produce a custom movie just for you. If you want to tweak the result, you can take a seat in the director’s chair and edit your movie with the movie editor in the iOS or Android app. These themed movies are rolling out in most countries today, and more movie themes will continue to rollout throughout the year.

Make a photo book for that special someone

If you’re in the US or Canada and looking for a thoughtful way to show someone you care, you can also create a photo book in just minutes from your computer or phone. In need of some creative inspiration? You may see suggested photo books based on your best shots from a trip or period of time. With books starting at just $9.99, they’re a great gift for anyone, from your Galentine to your dad. If you’re in the US, order your photo book with priority shipping by 11:59pm PT on February 7th (that’s today!) to receive it by February 14th.

photobook galentine's

Share the love with your library

All year long, you can make it easy to share the moments that matter with the people that matter. That’s where shared libraries from Google Photos come in. This feature allows you to effortlessly and automatically send and receive photos with the important people in your life—like all of the pictures of your daughter with her grandparent or with your partner. To get started, tap the menu bar in the top left, then “Add partner account.” Exactly what you share is up to you, so you can share your whole library, or you can choose to share only photos of specific people, or from certain dates.

Still need to get into the Valentine’s Day spirit? Try searching your gallery for “hug,” “kiss,” or evento find a few photos that will melt your heart.


Nest to join forces with Google’s hardware team

Category: Google | Feb 7, 2018

Smart homes are no longer just a thing of the future. They make families feel safer with connected security systems. They help you save energy and money with intelligent thermostats. And they offer hands-free help and answers to a universe of questions with voice-activated smart assistants.

Since Nest joined Google four years ago, the team has experienced incredible momentum. The company doubled its hardware portfolio last year—selling more devices in 2017 than the previous two years combined. Meanwhile, Google has sold tens of millions of products for the home in just the last year, as more people use the Google Assistant to listen to their favorite music, control their connected devices, and get useful information about their day.

To build on this momentum, we’re excited to bring the Nest and Google Hardware teams together. The goal is to supercharge Nest’s mission: to create a more thoughtful home, one that takes care of the people inside it and the world around it. By working together, we’ll continue to combine hardware, software and services to create a home that’s safer, friendlier to the environment, smarter and even helps you save money—built with Google’s artificial intelligence and the Assistant at the core.

We’ve had a head start on collaborating since our teams already work closely together, and today we’re excited to make Nest an integral part of Google’s big bet on hardware.


Celebrating Black history in our lives today

Category: Google | Feb 7, 2018

Growing up, Black history lessons in school were limited to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington Carver and Harriet Tubman. It wasn’t until I found my local public library—and with guidance from friendly librarians—that I began to understand the full breadth and depth of the impact of Africans in America. As a little Black girl growing up in white suburban Maryland, these lessons at the library, reinforced by conversations with my parents, were necessary to shaping a healthy identity as a Black woman.

As I studied my history, I learned that Harriet Tubman overcame her small stature and birth into slavery as, not only a brilliant conductor on the Underground Railroad, but a strategist who led the first military maneuver executed by an American woman. I learned that Jesse Owensovercame his childhood as a sickly sharecropper’s son to become an Olympic gold medalist. I learned that Black Americans in the South left what was familiar to migrate by the millions toward opportunity in the North, Midwest and West Coast. And I fell in love with the poems of Langston Hughes, who articulated the pain and the beauty of the Black experience in words that perfectly expressed what I had—until then—only felt.

Today there are more resources than ever to understand and feel empowered by the lessons of the past. To make these resources available to everyone, Google Arts and Culture is adding to its extensiveonline collection of Black History and Culture. We’ve worked with cultural institutions across America to preserve and showcase artifacts, art, documents and stories honoring the legacy of Black Americans. And as a part of the collection, influencers pay homage to the historical icons and moments that inspire them today. Check out what Nas has to say about how his father and jazz music impacted his life:

Beyond the Arts and Culture collection, here are a few other ways our products are honoring Black history:

  • In a special video series, YouTube creators talk about the individuals creating Black history today. 
  • Learn from your Google Assistant. Just say, “Hey Google, share a story about Black history.” 
  • Take a journey in VR with Black history lessons in Google Expeditions.
  • Listen a YouTube playlist oficonic Motown artists curated by influencers like Lebron James, Bethann Hardison, Morgan DeBaun, Mellody Hobson, Veronica Webb and Van Jones.
  • Search “Black History Month” on Google and see posts by verified organizations like the NAACP.

We’ll share more about Black history on Google Arts and Culture throughout the month. If you’re a cultural organization that features Black history collections, reach out to Google Arts and Culture via this form—we’re always looking to expand the range of works of art, archives and stories available on our platform.


Six ways Google can keep you up to speed in PyeongChang

Category: Google | Feb 7, 2018

Tomorrow thousands of athletes will come together in PyeongChang to represent their countries with the world as their audience. While the athletes are getting ready for the gold, we’re getting a few of our products ready, too. Here are six ways Google is helping you stay connected to what’s happening on the ground (and on the ice) during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games:

1. Stay in the snow know with Google Search

When you search for the Winter Olympics, you’ll find the latest information about your favorite events at the top of Search results. You’ll be able to see your country’s rank in the race for gold medals, or dive into a specific sport to check out which athletes have won. When you’re not tuning into the Winter Games live, you can watch a daily recap video, see top news related to the Olympic Games, and find verified updates from official broadcasters around the world.


2. Tune in with YouTube

Starting February 8, if you miss a competition, you can watch select Olympic Winter Games video highlights from official Olympic broadcasters on YouTube in more than 80 countries around the world including from NBCUniversal (USA), BBC (UK), NHK (Japan), France TV (France), and Eurosport (Rest of Europe). In the U.S., YouTube TV will also show NBCUniversal’s live coverage of the Olympic Winter Games. In India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal the Winter Games will be for the first time live and free on the Olympic Channel on YouTube.

3. Keep up with these apps on Google Play

Don’t miss a single jump (ski, axel, or otherwise) with these apps in the Google Play Store. Just download and follow along with the athletes and watch the action live:

4. Explore South Korea in Street View and Google Earth

Check out the new “sports” category in Google Earth Voyager with five stories about the Winter Games that take you from epic ski jumping destinations to theOlympic Torch relay. These travel itineraries will help you explore South Korea’s capital city, and on Street View, you can see the new imagery of stadiums, cities and towns close to PyeongChang.

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    Follow highlights of the torch relay in Google Earth, a journey that takes 101 days and travels through 17 Korean cities and provinces along the way.

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    Ski Jumps

    From Zaha Hadid lookout towers to the world’s oldest ski museum, explore the globe’s monumental ski jumping destinations.

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    Gangneung Ice Arena

    Take a few virtual strides on the Gangneung Ice Arena before the games begin

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    Kwandong Hockey Centre

    Don’t miss the Kwandong Hockey Centre A site to be seen on the inside and out. 

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    Jeongseon Arirang 5-day Market

    Vegetables, Korean chili peppers, bellflower root and more don’t miss the bustling Jeongseon Arirang Market

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    Wondae-ri Birch Forest

    A wonder you’d expect only from a fairy-tail – wander through the beautiful Wondae-ri Birch Forest

5. Get your head in the game with the Assistant

Your Google Assistant can help you stay up to date throughout the games. Curious about winners? Just say “Hey Google, who won women’s 1000 meter speed skating in the Olympics?” Rooting for a specific country? “Hey Google, how many medals does Iceland have in the Olympics?” You can even say “Hey Google, tell me a fun fact about the games in PyeongChang.” No matter how you’re asking—on your phone, speaker, TV or other enabled device—the Google Assistant can keep up with all the important Olympic details.

Plus, in the U.S., NBC is bringing an exclusive game to the Google Assistant across devices. It’s already live, so test your winter sports knowledge with dozens of trivia questions. Just say “Hey Google, play NBC Sports Trivia” to start your quest for Olympics’ trivia gold.

6. VR gets you closer to the action

Stream more than 50 hours of NBCUniversal’s live coverage—from the Opening Ceremony to alpine skiing, ice hockey, figure skating, snowboarding, curling and more—in virtual reality by using your YouTube TV credentials to log in to the NBC Sports VR app, powered by Intel True VR. In Europe, multi-camera live VR coverage is available via the Eurosport VR app.

Let the games begin.