Category Archives: Google Europe Blog

Google’s views on the Internet and society Europe

A ride to remember on World Alzheimer’s Day

Editor's note: Anne-Christine Hertz is a Swedish inventor who works at Health Technology Centre of Halland. Today, she shares a story of how the Centre used Street View to invent a device that helps elderly with Alzheimer’s.

A few weeks ago I met 75-year-old Lars Jonsson and his wife Ingrid. They married when Lars was 40 and have lived a happy, fulfilling life together. Lars also suffers from dementia.

Every three seconds someone develops dementia, a condition that creates disability and dependency among many elderly, robbing them of memory and judgment. It's not only overwhelming and stressful for those suffering, but also their loved ones. It was tough on Ingrid when her husband suddenly had trouble recalling the memories they’d spent a lifetime creating.

We met Lars and Ingrid when they came to test a device we invented to improve the lives of dementia patients. It’s called BikeAround, and it pairs a stationary bike with Google Street View projected on a big screen to take patients on a virtual ride down memory lane, letting them pedal around a place they have visited in the past. As Lars sat in the saddle, Ingrid suggested we take him back to the city and church in which they got married. Lars’s face flickered with happiness as the church rose up before him. The expression on his wife’s face when she knew for sure that he remembered was heartwarming

The development of the BikeAround system, which is now owned by health care company Camanio Care, started back in 2010 at Health Technology Center in Halland, Sweden. We were conducting research on dementia, and noticed people living with the disease were given different access to physical activity depending on which municipality they were living in. Since it’s often recommended that dementia patients perform physical activities to stimulate both physical and mental health, this was an issue. We wanted to find a way to motivate the elderly with dementia to exercise more, in a safe and secure way.

Dementia patient Bengt and his wife Laila test the BikeAround system.

Our strongest memories are tied inexorably to location. It’s no coincidence, when you think about any big memory or past event, your first thought is often “Where was I when that happened?” BikeAround taps into this idea by combining mental and physical stimulation—surrounding the patient with places they recognize through the Street View images, and then having them pedal and steer through them. Scientists think this kind of pairing produces dopamine in the brain and has the potential to affect memory management in a profound way.

Today is World Alzheimer’s Day, a time when people and organizations from all over the world concentrate their efforts on raising awareness of this disease for which there’s no cure. Researchers all over the world are trying to find new ways to increase quality of life for the people affected by the disease. The experience with Lars—and many others patients—proves we’ve developed not just a product for improving health, but something that creates emotion and connects people. Patients often find the BikeAround solution so fascinating—so comforting—they don’t want to get off. Neighborhoods they grew up in. Parks they played in as a child. Family visits to the seaside. They remember again. That’s a feeling of freedom.

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Bengt Ivarsson tests BikeAround, a stationary bike that’s paired with Google Street View to take dementia patients on a virtual ride down memory lane.

I have always looked at digitization and technology as a catalyst to open up the world not just to the tech savvy, but also to the elderly, who often live in digital exclusion. We’re excited about having found a way to bring happiness to many people living with dementia and their relatives. But what's also exciting to me is that this is just one example of how technology can be harnessed to make a real impact on people's lives. If we look beyond ourselves and unleash our imaginations, there's no limit to what we can do to help others.

Ti Amo Italy: a historic theater takes center stage in a new music video

“Ti Amo.” I love you. The new song from French synth-pop stars Phoenix. The title song from their recently released album “Ti Amo” is a love letter to Italy: from festivals in Sanremo, to singer Franco Battiato, to melted gelato.

In the video for the song, created by La Blogothèque and directed by Colin Solal Cardo in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture, Phoenix’s Thomas Mars abandons his guided tour of the Teatro Bibiena to sneak off and perform with his bandmates Christian Mazzalai, Laurent Brancowitz and Deck D’Arcy, around the stage, in the corridors and boxes of the theater—all shot live on 35mm film in one continuous shot.

But the real star of the video is the Teatro Bibiena itself. It’s a stunningly beautiful Baroque theater in the Italian town of Mantua. Measuring just 425 square meters, it seats about 300 people—less than a tenth of New York’s famous Carnegie Hall. Its surprisingly small, bell-shaped space is decorated with a wooden geometric ceiling, dozens of arched boxes and monochrome frescoes. Originally intended as an academic lecture hall when it was built, in the 1760s, guests soon realized that the space had amazing acoustics, and it was then used to house music and theater performances. A 14-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart even played there!

Phoenix hero

Take a look around the theatre yourself with Street View or browse through the history of this cultural gem on Google Arts & Culture.

Phoenix
Deck D’Arcy, Christian Mazzalai, Thomas Mars and Laurent Brancowitz of Phoenix

Ti Amo Italy: a historic theater takes center stage in a new music video

“Ti Amo.” I love you. The new song from French synth-pop stars Phoenix. The title song from their recently released album “Ti Amo” is a love letter to Italy: from festivals in Sanremo, to singer Franco Battiato, to melted gelato.

In the video for the song, created by La Blogothèque and directed by Colin Solal Cardo in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture, Phoenix’s Thomas Mars abandons his guided tour of the Teatro Bibiena to sneak off and perform with his bandmates Christian Mazzalai, Laurent Brancowitz and Deck D’Arcy, around the stage, in the corridors and boxes of the theater—all shot live on 35mm film in one continuous shot.

Phoenix - Ti Amo (Live in Teatro Bibiena, Mantova)

But the real star of the video is the Teatro Bibiena itself. It’s a stunningly beautiful Baroque theater in the Italian town of Mantua. Measuring just 425 square meters, it seats about 300 people—less than a tenth of New York’s famous Carnegie Hall. Its surprisingly small, bell-shaped space is decorated with a wooden geometric ceiling, dozens of arched boxes and monochrome frescoes. Originally intended as an academic lecture hall when it was built, in the 1760s, guests soon realized that the space had amazing acoustics, and it was then used to house music and theater performances. A 14-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart even played there!

Phoenix hero

Take a look around the theatre yourself with Street View or browse through the history of this cultural gem on Google Arts & Culture.

Phoenix
Deck D’Arcy, Christian Mazzalai, Thomas Mars and Laurent Brancowitz of Phoenix

Digital News Initiative Innovation Fund: Call for fourth round applications

Since its introduction, the Digital News Initiative Innovation Fund, our €150 million commitment to supporting innovation in the European news industry, has offered €73.5 million to 359 ambitious projects in digital journalism, across 29 countries. The fund is designed to provide no-strings-attached awards to those in the news industry looking for some room—and budget—to experiment. As we’re only halfway through our commitment, we’re thrilled to open the DNI Innovation Fund for a fourth round of applications. This season’s application round will be open for the next four weeks, ending October 12 (23:59 CEST).

Focus on monetization for medium and large projects

Round 4 of the DNI Innovation Fund will be slightly different from previous rounds for Medium and Large track applicants. We’ve heard clearly that monetization one of the biggest challenges currently facing news publishers. Therefore, for this fourth round of funding, we’re requiring all Medium and Large projects to provide explicit plans for monetization, with clear indicators showing the potential of the project to create economic value added for the business. Prototype projects don’t have the monetization requirement and remain, as in previous rounds, all about innovation.

Here’s a quick reminder of how the Fund works:

Projects

We’re looking for projects that demonstrate new thinking in the practice of digital journalism; that support the development of new business models, or maybe even change the way users consume digital news. Projects can be highly experimental, but must have well-defined goals and have a significant digital component. There is absolutely no requirement to use any Google products. Successful projects will show innovation and have a positive impact on the production of original digital journalism and on the long-term sustainability of the news business.

Eligibility and Funding

The Fund is open to established publishers, online-only players, news startups, collaborative partnerships and individuals based in the EU and EFTA countries. There are three categories of funding available:

  • Prototype projects: open to organizations—and to individuals—that meet the eligibility criteria, and require up to €50k of funding. These projects should be very early stage, with ideas yet to be designed and assumptions yet to be tested. We will fast-track such projects and will fund 100 percent of the total cost.

  • Medium projects: open to organizations that meet the eligibility criteria and require up to €300k of funding. We will accept funding requests up to 70 percent of the total cost of the project. Important: All medium applications need to include a clearly defined monetization component.

  • Large projects: open to organisations that meet the eligibility criteria and require more than €300k of funding. We will accept funding requests up to 70 percent of the total cost of the project. Funding is capped at €1 million. All large applications need to include a clearly defined monetization component.

Exceptions to the €1 million cap are possible for large projects that are collaborative (e.g., international, sector-wide, involving multiple organizations) or that significantly benefit the broad news ecosystem.

How to apply

Visit the new Digital News Initiative website for full details, including eligibility criteria, frequently asked questions, terms and conditions, and application forms. Applications must be made in English and the submission deadline for the fourth round of funding is October 12, 2017. We’re also hosting a live online hangout on with the DNI Fund Team on Tuesday, Sep 26, at 3pm CEST, where we’ll share learnings from the first three rounds of applications and explain what has changed for Round 4. If you have any questions or would like to hear more, hand in your questions upfront on our site.

We’ll announce the next funding recipients by the end of this year. We look forward to receiving your applications!

Google’s Digital News Initiative Fund

Editor's note: In April 2015, Google announced the Digital News Initiative, a partnership with European news organizations to support high-quality journalism through technology and innovation. In this guest post, Bart Brouwers, a Dutch journalism professor at the University of Groningen and a council member of the Digital News Initiative’s Fund, looks back at what the Digital News Initiative’s fund has accomplished so far.

If the distribution of money from Google’s DNI Innovation Fund is any indicator of the state of innovation in Europe, then Britain and Germany are doing great.

With more than 90 funded projects between them in the first three rounds of funding, the two countries stand head and shoulders above the others. Germany’s projects have been allocated more than 13 million euros, with around 7 million in Britain. Spain (with 25 projects) is just behind them: 6.6 million euros. My home country the Netherlands is in the middle with 18 projects and allocated funding of 2.5 million euros.

So far, 73.5 million of the available 150 million euro have been distributed. The newest winners were announced on July 6 and we’ll begin accepting applications for Round 4 on September 13.

As a member of the DNI Innovation Fund Council, I often get questions about how the process works, how projects are evaluated and what role the Fund plays in furthering innovation in publishing. I’ll do my best to explain it here.

The DNI Council consists of three Google representatives and ten publishers, scientists and journalists from across Europe. The Chairman is Portugal’s Joao Palmeiro. For the 10 of us who are non-Googlers it’s voluntary work; For us, it’s an opportunity to see behind the scenes of European media innovation. Because of the overwhelming interest (some 3,082 initiatives were submitted for the first three rounds!), the Council focuses mainly on the category of large projects—that is, applications for more than 300,000 euros.

When we met in the Dutch innovation capital of Eindhoven this June to judge the applicants of the third round, the debate occasionally became heated; justifying the acceptance or rejection of a proposal isn’t something any of us takes lightly. The debate over each application, as well as the distribution of funding across countries takes time because, just as the level of innovation differs from country to country, so does the number of applications, the nature of the projects and more.

Because it’s difficult to weigh a blockchain application against a video project or a new distribution model for content we consider six aspects when evaluating projects: the potential impact on the European ecosystem, transformation for the organization, innovation, the use of technology, feasibility and income possibilities. In particular, in evaluating the aspect of transformation, organizations which may be lagging behind in digitization terms are given a bit of an extra chance. This means that sometimes a project receives assistance because the applicant’s organization or country might be transformed by the project—even if a similar project is already running elsewhere.

This is an important point for potential applicants to know: that the presence of a similar initiative elsewhere is not a reason to deny funding. Two initiatives working on a similar topic can sometimes have a better chance of succeeding than just one, and the circumstances between projects are always just a little bit different.

When reflecting upon the trends of which initiatives are receiving funding, I’d argue that it’s not a reflection of the Council’s taste, but of the breadth and variety of the applications. In the first two rounds, for example, as detailed in the DNI Innovation Fund Report, seven categories rose to the top: Intelligence, Workflow, Interface, Social, Business Model, Distribution and “Next Journalism.” This last group—far and away the largest—includes issues of verification (pretty much everything summed up in the battle against fake news, and restoring trust in journalism). Around 25 projects of this type received support in the first two rounds—and funding was decided before “fake news” became household language.

Of course through the Digital News Initiative, Google wants to display its friendliest face to the European media sector. That this image cannot be taken for granted recently became apparent again with the 2.4-billion fine imposed by the European Commission in its antitrust action for Google’s shopping comparison service, but the internet giant has also had other difficulties with Europe. Free news, a "captured" advertising market–these are just a few of the accusations which the publishers and the European Commission lay at Google’s door.

The DNI Fund meets a need, both for the news industry as a whole and for the individual players in it. Given the massive volume of applications, there certainly appears to be no shame in taking Google’s money.

Recently many DNI-Fund supported project teams from all over Europe met in Amsterdam to demonstrate their progress. For many, the DNI support was essential to the steps they have taken so far—and that progress should be celebrated. But it should not gloss over the fact that true innovation entails plenty of failure. For Council members, this comes up quite often: how important is it to support initiatives whose feasibility might be doubtful, but which could certainly inject new movement into the sector even if they fail? For the time being the need for media innovation in Europe is still so great that the answer is a full-throated yes.

Would you also like to submit an application to the DNI fund? Submissions will open again starting September 13 until October 12. More info on the DNI website. You can also download our first DNI Innovation Fund report 2016-2017 to read more about our funded projects and key insights.  

Typing Greek has never been so easy

Did you know that many words in a vocabulary of an educated English speaker are borrowed from Greek? Hundreds of scientific, medical, and technical terms have been coined from Greek words, being either the root that creates a word or prefixes / suffixes of words used in daily language. From physics to photography, from microscope to telephone, from biology to zoology and many more - these are now part of almost all European languages.

Today, for all Greek users and Greek enthusiasts we are excited to introduce Greeklish support in Gboard, a Google keyboard for your device. Gboard gives you all the things you expect from a great keyboard—GIFs, emojis, and Glide Typing—with Google Search built in.

The Greek alphabet, made of ​24 letters (+ diacritics) is amongst the most fascinating ones, to me at least :) I remember about ~15 years ago, the only option I had when it came to text messaging was to type on a Latin-character keyboard (a-b-c-...), since it was hard to input Greek (α-β-γ-...). As a result, Greek users like me got used to typing romanized Greek on a Latin-character keyboard—a writing style known to many as “Greeklish.”

You can try it by following these steps:

First, select the “Greek (abc -> Ελληνικά)” keyboard from the Gboard menu on your Android device.
Greeklish 1

Open an app that allows you to type and then either tap or long press the Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 2.32.40 PM.png icon in order to select the “Greek (abc -> Ελληνικά)” keyboard.

Once the model downloads, you’ll be ready to start using the new keyboard! You can either tap or glide type.

We believe that this new keyboard will help users keep on writing in the Greek script, preserving our culture and our language in the digital world.

Gboard for Android regularly gets new languages and tools, as we work towards our vision of creating an intelligent mechanism for faster input, word-completions and suggestions on mobile--in any language you choose.

Funding 75,000 Udacity scholarships to bridge the digital skills gap

Ildiko Fekete is a mother of two from Hungary, who had moved to a small town to raise her family, taking time out from her career as a literature teacher.  Earlier this year she applied for and completed an Android scholarship. As a result she has built an eco-footprint app, Greenfeet, and plans to pursue freelance developer work.

Today in Krakow, at Google Developer Days - Europe, our biggest European developer event, scholarship recipients like Ildiko will join 2000 other developers from all over Europe to learn about the newest developer technologies and improve their skills.

Despite this enthusiasm, the growing digital skills gap has lead the EU to predict that half a million ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) jobs will remain unfilled by 2020.

Last year, along with Bertelsmann and Udacity we offered 10,000 Android developer scholarships to help people like Ildiko reach their goals. We were humbled by the overwhelming demand for these courses, so I’m happy to announce that together with Bertelsmann & Udacity we’ll be offering 75,000 more people the opportunity to benefit from free developer courses.

Today, we’re opening our 60,000 Scholarships Challenge, for both absolute beginners and for existing programmers, which will include both Android and Web development courses. For more details and to apply, please see: https://www.udacity.com/google-scholarships.

Later this year, Bertelsmann will also offer an additional 15,000 Scholarships Challenge for beginners and advanced students in the field of data science. We’ll share more details on these in the coming weeks.

We hope that this initiative will help scholarship recipients get the in-demand skills needed to get a job or advance their career.

Funding 75,000 Udacity scholarships to bridge the digital skills gap

Ildiko Fekete is a mother of two from Hungary, who had moved to a small town to raise her family, taking time out from her career as a literature teacher.  Earlier this year she applied for and completed an Android scholarship. As a result she has built an eco-footprint app, Greenfeet, and plans to pursue freelance developer work.

Android Udacity recipient Ildiko Fekete's story

Today in Krakow, at Google Developer Days - Europe, our biggest European developer event, scholarship recipients like Ildiko will join 2000 other developers from all over Europe to learn about the newest developer technologies and improve their skills.

Despite this enthusiasm, the growing digital skills gap has lead the EU to predict that half a million ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) jobs will remain unfilled by 2020.

Last year, along with Bertelsmann and Udacity we offered 10,000 Android developer scholarships to help people like Ildiko reach their goals. We were humbled by the overwhelming demand for these courses, so I’m happy to announce that together with Bertelsmann & Udacity we’ll be offering 75,000 more people the opportunity to benefit from free developer courses.

Today, we’re opening our 60,000 Scholarships Challenge, for both absolute beginners and for existing programmers, which will include both Android and Web development courses. For more details and to apply, please see: https://www.udacity.com/google-scholarships.

Later this year, Bertelsmann will also offer an additional 15,000 Scholarships Challenge for beginners and advanced students in the field of data science. We’ll share more details on these in the coming weeks.

We hope that this initiative will help scholarship recipients get the in-demand skills needed to get a job or advance their career.

Code Jam 2017 wraps up with the World Finals in Dublin

The results from this year's Code Jam, Google's largest and toughest programming competition, are in! The contest wrapped up with a two-day World Finals event from August 10-11. After a record-breaking season with more than 60,000 registrants, finalists representing 16 countries traveled to Dublin, Ireland to compete for cash prizes and the title of 2017 World Champion.

The event kicked off with Distributed Code Jam, in which contestants are required to program in a distributed environment (much like the day-to-day of a Google software engineer). While our returning 2015 and 2016 champion, bmerry (Bruce Merry), endeavored to hold onto his spot for another year, the other top 20 Distributed finalists, including Code Jam's reigning three-year champion Gennady.Korotkevich (Gennady Korotkevich), battled for a chance at the $10,000 grand prize. The contest was so tough that no contestant submitted more than six out of the eight possible datasets. In a scintillating finale with numerous close scores, ecnerwala (Andrew He) of the United States swooped in to steal first place, becoming our second-ever Distributed Code Jam Champion.

The action continued the next day with Gennady.Korotkevich and 25 other Code Jammers competing for a $15,000 grand prize and the coveted title of Code Jam Champion. Finalists approached the problem set using techniques such as max flow, dynamic programming, and randomized algorithms; the problems required challenging original insights in addition to algorithmic knowledge, and two of them were so difficult that no contestant solved them completely. After four hours of ferocious coding, during which the leader on the scoreboard changed several times, Gennady.Korotkevich stole the show and took the World Championship for an unprecedented fourth consecutive year in a row! Once the official results were announced, fans of Gennady (or "tourist" as he is known in other programming contests) enthusiastically took to social media to celebrate this record-breaking moment in Code Jam history. You can learn more about this year's problems and analyses, and see other past contests, on our website.

In addition to exclusive competition coverage and features with Code Jam Googlers, the live stream showcased the diversity of teams and people at Google working to make great products across the globe. Whether you've been following since the Qualification Round in April, or are a newcomer to the arena, we hope you'll check out the full recording of the World Finals live stream. We also hope to see you in the 2018 Code Jam and Distributed Code Jam competitions; it's never too early to start practicing for next year!

Getting ready for Europe’s new data protection rules

Next May, Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force, replacing the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive. It ushers in a new era, unifying data protection rules across Europe, strengthening the rights of EU citizens and placing new obligations on all organisations that offer goods and services online.

Google is committed to complying with the GDPR across all of the services that we provide in Europe. That includes our most popular consumer products like Search and Gmail, all of our advertising and measurement services like AdWords, AdSense, DoubleClick and Analytics, our Cloud services as previously announced, as well as, of course, any services we launch in the future.

We’ve always worked hard to demonstrate that our services are secure and meet the standards of  applicable data protection rules. We offer transparency to users through clear explanations of how we use personal data and our “Why This Ad” program, while giving people controls to manage their privacy through My Account and My Activity.

But we’re also keenly aware that our customers and partners have significant obligations under these new laws, and so we conduct regular audits, maintain certifications, provide industry-standard contractual protections and share tools and information to help them with their compliance. As we get ready for the GDPR, we’ll continue on that path, and have recently launched a new site for our customers and partners that explains:

In the coming months we will make available updated contractual commitments that meet GDPR requirements for our customers and partners.  And we will continue to evolve our privacy protections and practices to meet the GDPR’s requirements.

Our aim is always to keep data private and safe – and to put our users and partners in control.