Category Archives: Google New Zealand Blog

New Zealand news and notes from Google

Headphones optimized for your Aussie Google Assistant

Your Assistant is already available to help on phones, Google Home and more. But sometimes you need something a bit more personal, just for you, on your headphones. Like when you’re commuting on the train and want some time to yourself. Or reading at home and looking for some peace and quiet.

To help with those “in between” moments, together with Bose, we’re announcing headphones that are optimized for the Assistant, starting with the QC35. So now, you can keep up to date on your messages, music and more—using your eligible Android phone or iPhone.

To get started, connect your QC 35 II headphones to your phone via Bluetooth, open your Google Assistant and follow the instructions. From there, your Assistant is just a button away—push (and hold) the Action button to easily and quickly talk to your Assistant.

  • Stay connected to what matters: Hear your incoming messages, events and more, automatically, right from your headphones. So if you’re listening to your favorite song and you get a text, your Assistant can read it to you, no extra steps.
  • Listen to news and more: Now it’s easy to keep up with news while you walk to the bus, hop on the train or go for a run. Just ask your Assistant to “play the news” and you’ll get a read-out of the current hot topics. You can choose from a variety of news sources, like ABC News, The Australian and more.
  • Keep in touch with friends: With your Assistant on headphones, you can make a call with just a few simple words—“Call dad”—take the call from your headphones and continue on your way. No stopping or dialing, just talking.

We’ve worked together with Bose to create a great Assistant experience on the QC35 II—whether you’re on a crowded street or squished on a train, Bose’s active noise cancellation will help eliminate unwanted sounds around you, so you’re able to hear your Assistant, your music and more. The Assistant on the QC35 II will be available in English to all Aussies as well as in the U.K., the U.S., Canada, Germany and France.

We’ll continue to add features, apps and more to your Assistant on headphones over the coming weeks.

At New Zealand schools, Chromebooks top the list of learning tools

New Zealand educators are changing their approach to teaching, building personalised learning pathways for every student. Technology plays a key part in this approach. New Zealand has joined the list of countries including Sweden and the United States where Chromebooks are the number one device used in schools, according to analysts at International Data Corporation (IDC).

“Chromebooks continue to be a top choice for schools,” says Arunachalam Muthiah, Senior Market Analyst, IDC NZ. “After Chromebooks’ strong performance in 2016, we see a similar trend in the first half of 2017 with Chromebooks gaining a total shipment market share of 46 percent, continuing to hold their position as the number-one selling device in schools across New Zealand.”

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Bombay School students learning about conductivity, electrical circuits and constructing a tune.

Technology is transforming education across the globe, and in New Zealand schools are using digital tools to help students learn, in the classroom and beyond.

At Bombay School, located in the rural foothills south of Auckland, students could only get an hour a week of computer access. Bombay School’s principal and board decided on a 1:1 “bring your own device” program with Chromebooks, along with secure device management using a Chrome Education license.

Teachers quickly realised that since each student was empowered with a Chromebook, access to learning opportunities increased daily, inspiring students to chart new learning paths. “Technology overcomes constraints,” says Paul Petersen, principal of Bombay School. “If I don’t understand multiplication today, I can learn about it online. I can look for help. I can practice at my own pace, anywhere I am.”

In 2014 Bombay School seniors collectively scored in the 78th percentile for reading; in 2016, they reached nearly the 90th percentile.

Students at Point England School take a digital license quiz to learn about online behavior.

In the Manaiakalani Community of Learning in East Auckland, some students start school with lower achievement levels than students in other school regions. Manaiakalani chose Chromebooks to support its education program goals and manage budget challenges. By bringing Chromebooks to the Manaiakalani schools, “we broke apart the barriers of the 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. school day,” says Dorothy Burt, head of the Manaiakalani Education Program and Digital Learning Coordinator, based at Point England School. Using G Suite for Education tools on their Chromebooks, students can work with other students, teachers, and parents on their lessons in the classroom, the library, or at home.

Dorothy Burt says “we’re seeing not only engagement, but actual literacy outcomes improve—it’s made a huge difference to the opportunities students will have in the future.”

We look forward to supporting more countries and schools as they redefine teaching and make learning even more accessible for every student, anywhere.

Kiwis, meet Google Wifi

From binge-watching your favourite TV shows, to searching for cookie dough recipes, to playing your favourite video game, having strong and reliable Wi-Fi at home is the key to staying connected.

Starting today, Kiwis can get their hands on Google Wifi. It’s a new kind of home Wi-Fi solution that gives you strong, reliable coverage, in every room.

Traditional Wi-Fi routers aren’t always built to support the increasing number of devices we use or the high bandwidth activities like gaming or watching videos. Google Wifi is different. It’s a connected system that replaces your current router and works with your modem and internet provider. It brings everything you love about Google -- smarts, security and simplicity -- to home Wi-Fi.
Strong, reliable coverage
Google Wifi uses a technology called mesh Wi-Fi. Within our mesh network, each Google Wifi point creates a high-powered connection, and the different Wifi points work together to determine the best path for your data. The result is Wi-Fi coverage in every corner of your house, not just right next to the router.

Keeps itself fast
None of us want to spend lots of time tweaking complex settings or managing our Wi-Fi network. Google Wifi is smart, and automatically places your devices on the clearest channel and optimal Wi-Fi band, so your family, friends or flatmates can keep doing what they love without missing a beat. And as you move around your house, our built-in Network Assist software will seamlessly transition your device between the Google Wifi points in real time, to help you avoid dead spots and delays. Google Wifi is an expandable system, so if you have a larger home, you can simply add more Google Wifi points. They connect to one another to spread a strong consistent network signal to every room.
A simple way to control your network

To make sure you’re always in control, Google Wifi is managed by the Google Wifi app, available on Android and iOS. The app helps keep your network safe and secure, and let’s you do things like pause Wi-Fi on kids’ devices, or create recurring pauses for dinner or homework with scheduled pause. It also shows you which devices are connected and how much bandwidth they’re using. You can even prioritise devices within your network so you can stream that latest TV episode without interruptions.

24/7 customer support

And if you ever need help with your Google Wifi system, we’re here for you. Google support agents are available to lend a hand by phone or live chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Google Wifi will be available in New Zealand starting Thursday, July 20 as a 1-pack for $229 and a 3-pack for $599 from Noel Leeming, Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi. You can find out more about Google Wifi here.

Turbocharging digital skills in Tauranga

A power company, costume rental, students and electric bikes.... No, it’s not the set of an amateur theatre recital - these were just some of the businesses that came together to learn new digital skills in Tauranga last week.

More than 80 local business owners and operators attended a series of workshops delivered by Google and Venture Centre New Zealand at the Base Station Coworking and Collaboration Space on Thursday 13 July.

Todd Muller, MP for the Bay of Plenty joined the event and spoke about the importance of local businesses getting online to reach new customers and grow.

Bay of Plenty MP, Todd Muller, Venture Centre’s Jo Allum and Google’s Jean Magalhaes (photo credit - Richard Robinson Photography)

Jo Allum from Venture Centre said there was strong demand for digital skills training in the Western Bay region, with research suggesting about 40 per cent of business owners in Tauranga and Western Bay didn’t feel they had the skills needed to make the most of technology.

Participants had the chance to ask questions and share their experiences about building and managing a website, e-commerce, digital advertising and how to be found online. The workshop covered a range of tools and tips, including how businesses can claim their listing on Google My Business.

NZ businesses have much to gain from getting online and many are already doing great things.

A recent report by Oxford Economics looked at how the internet is fueling small business exports in New Zealand. Research found that if every small business in NZ with five or more staff went online, there would be an extra 2,200 businesses exporting and generating more sales.

We want everyone to have the opportunity to get the skills they need to succeed online. Got a question about getting your business online? Get in touch with our Small Business Team!

Four steps we’re taking today to fight online terror

Editor’s Note: This post appeared as an op-ed in the Financial Times earlier today.

Terrorism is an attack on open societies, and addressing the threat posed by violence and hate is a critical challenge for us all. Google and YouTube are committed to being part of the solution. We are working with government, law enforcement and civil society groups to tackle the problem of violent extremism online. There should be no place for terrorist content on our services.

While we and others have worked for years to identify and remove content that violates our policies, the uncomfortable truth is that we, as an industry, must acknowledge that more needs to be done. Now.

We have thousands of people around the world who review and counter abuse of our platforms. Our engineers have developed technology to prevent re-uploads of known terrorist content using image-matching technology. We have invested in systems that use content-based signals to help identify new videos for removal. And we have developed partnerships with expert groups, counter-extremism agencies, and the other technology companies to help inform and strengthen our efforts.

Today, we are pledging to take four additional steps.

First, we are increasing our use of technology to help identify extremist and terrorism-related videos. This can be challenging: a video of a terrorist attack may be informative news reporting if broadcast by the BBC, or glorification of violence if uploaded in a different context by a different user. We have used video analysis models to find and assess more than 50 per cent of the terrorism-related content we have removed over the past six months. We will now devote more engineering resources to apply our most advanced machine learning research to train new “content classifiers” to help us more quickly identify and remove extremist and terrorism-related content.

Second, because technology alone is not a silver bullet, we will greatly increase the number of independent experts in YouTube’s Trusted Flagger programme. Machines can help identify problematic videos, but human experts still play a role in nuanced decisions about the line between violent propaganda and religious or newsworthy speech. While many user flags can be inaccurate, Trusted Flagger reports are accurate over 90 per cent of the time and help us scale our efforts and identify emerging areas of concern. We will expand this programme by adding 50 expert NGOs to the 63 organisations who are already part of the programme, and we will support them with operational grants. This allows us to benefit from the expertise of specialised organisations working on issues like hate speech, self-harm, and terrorism. We will also expand our work with counter-extremist groups to help identify content that may be being used to radicalise and recruit extremists.

Third, we will be taking a tougher stance on videos that do not clearly violate our policies — for example, videos that contain inflammatory religious or supremacist content. In future these will appear behind an interstitial warning and they will not be monetised, recommended or eligible for comments or user endorsements. That means these videos will have less engagement and be harder to find. We think this strikes the right balance between free expression and access to information without promoting extremely offensive viewpoints.

Finally, YouTube will expand its role in counter-radicalisation efforts. Building on our successful Creators for Change programme promoting YouTube voices against hate and radicalisation, we are working with Jigsaw to implement the “Redirect Method” more broadly across Europe. This promising approach harnesses the power of targeted online advertising to reach potential Isis recruits, and redirects them towards anti-terrorist videos that can change their minds about joining. In previous deployments of this system, potential recruits have clicked through on the ads at an unusually high rate, and watched over half a million minutes of video content that debunks terrorist recruiting messages.

We have also recently committed to working with industry colleagues—including Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter—to establish an international forum to share and develop technology and support smaller companies and accelerate our joint efforts to tackle terrorism online.
Collectively, these changes will make a difference. And we’ll keep working on the problem until we get the balance right. Extremists and terrorists seek to attack and erode not just our security, but also our values; the very things that make our societies open and free. We must not let them. Together, we can build lasting solutions that address the threats to our security and our freedoms. It is a sweeping and complex challenge. We are committed to playing our part.

Google Flights has landed in New Zealand

Pack your bags! Whether you’re traveling from Auckland to Asia, or Kerikeri to Queenstown, Google Flights will give you travel inspiration and surface the best available flight options. Starting today, you can search on Google for flights to a destination by searching for things like “Flights to Wellington” or “Flights to Australia”. Or, you can go directly to to quickly and easily compare and book flights in $NZD — from your mobile device, tablet or desktop.

Still daydreaming about your next trip? Try using Explore to get ideas on where to go based on popular destinations. If you want to get away for a holiday next month just choose “July” and a trip duration like “2 weeks” to see the dates with the lowest prices to visit each place.

Once you select your departure and return dates, you’ll be presented with a list of ‘Best flights’; which represents the best tradeoff of convenience and price. Before you select a specific flight, you may see a notification bar with tips on how to find the best price for this route. Tips can include things like recommendations for alternate airports, suggest the cheapest dates to fly, or tell you about an expected price jump based on historic prices for that route.

If you’re not ready to book yet, you can choose to track a flight and receive email notifications when prices are expected to change or when the price actually does increase or decrease significantly.

Whether you’re ticking off your bucket list or taking a quick business trip, our goal is to help you find the best flight with confidence so you can plan, book and take off in a couple of clicks.

Helping NZ students stay safe online

Ever wondered how you can keep your children safe online? It’s a question more and more parents are asking, as eight out of ten people in New Zealand own a smartphone or tablet, and 88% use social media every month. Today families have another tool to help children to be smart, safe and responsible online with the launch of a new program for Year Eight and Nine students in New Zealand.

The Digital Licence is an interactive online quiz providing cyber safety for kids; educating them on what to do if they are exposed to unwanted, inappropriate and offensive content or cyber bullying; and the consequences of putting their privacy at risk when interacting online.

The Digital Licence was developed by the Alannah & Madeline Foundation, a not-for-profit dedicated to keeping children safe from violence and bullying and Google is proud to help make the program available free of charge to all Year Eight and Nine students.

The licence was launched today with the Alannah & Madeline Foundation at Point England School in Auckland today, a School recognised as a leader in successfully integrating technology into its teaching and learning.

Point England School Principal, Russell Burt said the Digital Licence will be a valuable addition to the skills his students are being taught.

“This is an excellent new tool for NZ teachers and parents to have in the toolkit, to grow Cyber Smart values in that tricky Year 7 to Year 10 age group. Well done to the Alannah & Madeline Foundation and Google for making this available to NZ schools and families.”

We know that the internet is empowering Kiwi students to learn and grow their ambitions. Now, with this program, we can help to make sure that time spent online is positive, constructive and enjoyable.

Find out more about the Digital Licence here.

Announcing Google’s CS4HS recipients for 2017

Helping educators to confidently teach digital technologies provides students with lifelong skills that enable them to solve problems and develop critical analysis skills.

Google’s Computer Science for High Schools (CS4HS) program has been running in Australia and New Zealand since 2011 and in that time has trained more than 9,000 teachers.

Through hands-on professional development workshops the program provides teachers with the skills and resources they need to teach computational thinking and computer science concepts in fun and engaging ways.

Ali Duncan, a primary teacher at Ladbrooks School in Christchurch, along with other members of her school’s faculty, attended the first CS4PS (Computer Science for Primary Schools) run by the University of Canterbury in 2016. She says the workshop “made me feel more confident to expand my learning (a tiny bit of Python, robotics, Scratch) and being more open in general to conversations around these areas with my children and colleagues”.

Ladbrooks School students at the BuzzOff Challenge
Since the workshop Ali has become a driving force in her school for computer science and STEM programs. The students “love learning computer science, they enjoy sharing with their parents and making those connections”. Through the CS4PS workshop, Ali’s class was invited to the University of Canterbury’s BuzzOff BeeBot challenge last year which was a fantastic learning experience for the students and showcases the ongoing support for teachers fostered by the CS4HS program.

We’re excited to announce the 2017 CS4HS Awards that will continue to inspire and empower teachers like Bianca around Australia and New Zealand.

2017 CS4HS Funding Recipients 

Auckland University of Technology


The University of Canterbury - Primary Workshop

The University of Canterbury - Secondary Workshop

Victoria University of Wellington

A remedy for your health-related questions: Google Search launches health info in the Knowledge Graph

Think of the last time you searched on Google for health information.  Maybe you heard a news story about gluten-free diets and Googled "What is celiac disease?" Maybe you were planning a trip to Bali, so you looked up “Zika virus” so you could take precautions. Or perhaps you were worried about a loved one, and searched to better understand their condition and prognosis.

Starting today in New Zealand, Google search results will show information for over 900 commonly searched for health conditions. The new health feature will include an outline of the condition, symptoms, diagnosis, and prevalence according to age at the top of search results. For some conditions you’ll also see high-quality illustrations from licensed medical illustrators. Once you get this basic info from Google, you should find it easier to do more research on other sites around the web, or know what questions to ask your doctor.
This feature has been developed as more people turn to Google to help with their health queries. In fact, 1 in 20 Google searches are for health-related information. That’s why we’ve surfaced trusted, quality health information right in Google Search. We hope this will help people find the information they need more quickly and easily.

We worked with a team of medical doctors (led by our own Dr. Kapil Parakh, M.D., MPH, Ph.D.) to carefully compile, curate, and review this information. All of the gathered facts represent real-life clinical knowledge from these doctors and high-quality medical sources across the web. Each fact has been checked by a panel of at least ten medical doctors at Google and the Mayo Clinic for accuracy.

That doesn’t mean these search results are intended as medical advice. We know that cases can vary in severity from person to person, and that there are bound to be exceptions. What we present is intended for informational purposes only — and you should always consult a healthcare professional if you have a medical concern.

We hope this information will empower you in your health decisions – so the next time you need information on measles or treatments for tennis elbow, Google will be a better place to start.

Posted by Isobel Solaqua, Program Manager

Visit Vanuatu on Street View, and journey under the earth’s surface

More than a thousand miles off the coast of Australia is the remote country of Vanuatu, an archipelago of 80 tiny islands – brimming with lush green jungles, pristine black sand beaches, and nine erupting volcanoes.
Starting today in Google Maps, we invite you to join us on a journey to the edge of one of the largest boiling lava lakes in the world on the Vanuatuan island of Ambrym. To get inside the active volcano, we partnered with explorers Geoff Mackley and Chris Horsly, who repelled 400 meters into the Marum crater with a Street View Trekker collecting 360-degree imagery of the journey down to the molten lava lake, which is roughly the size of two football fields. “You only realize how insignificant humans are when you’re standing next to a giant lake of fiery boiling rock. It’s like looking into the surface of the sun,” said Mackley.

“Standing at the edge and feeling the heat lick your skin is phenomenal,” said Chris Horsly after returning from his descent into the crater. “I hope that by putting this place on the map people will realize what a beautiful world we live in.”

Ambrym is defined by the desolate 39 square mile volcanic caldera hosting two active volcanic cones called Benbow and Marum. But the tropical island is also home to more than 7,000 people who live in the rainforest down the mountain.While the volcano has played a significant role in defining their history due to unpredictable eruptions and influence on agriculture and environment, they’ve learned to live in harmony with this beautiful yet deadly natural phenomena.

Chief Moses in the local village of Endu explains, “We believe that the volcanoes Marum and Benbow are devils. If you go up to a volcano you have to be very careful because the two volcanoes could get angry at any time. We believe that Benbo is the husband and Marum is the wife. Sometimes when they don’t agree there’s an eruption which means the spirit is angry so we sacrifice a pig or fawel to the volcano.” As part of the Google Maps journey, Chief Moses of Endu invites you to take a walk through his village and hopes you’ll be inspired to visit this sacred place he calls home. Following Cyclone Pam a few years ago, the country has been rebuilding its infrastructure. Now Chief Moses and his  village are ready to welcome travelers rs back to Vanuatu to experience  its stunning beauty and learn about its cultural traditions. He believes making Vanuatu more accessible to the world is a key step in the island’s recovery and ability to  establish a sustainable economy and preserve its  culture.

In Street View you can wander the streets of 81 countries and visit incredible historical and natural sites around the world like the Samburu National Park in Kenya, The Grand Canyon, or New Zealand’s walking tracks. Today, for the first time, Street View is going beneath the surface and into the heart of the earth—enjoy exploring Vanuatu’s Marum Crater and Endu village at Ambrym.

Posted by Alex Starns, Street View Program Manager