Category Archives: Official Google Blog

Insights from Googlers into our topics, technology, and the Google culture

Investing in Investigative journalism

Investigative journalists depend on a number of digital techniques in their work—from analyzing data on a shared spreadsheet, to identifying the original source of a photograph or picking through the minutes of a public meeting on a local website. As part of the Google News Initiative’s efforts to support high-quality journalism, we want to enable journalists to discover how digital tools can help them delve deeper or get to the facts more quickly. That’s why we’re working with the Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ) to provide a new program, called “Access to Tools.”

Over the coming months a team of expert trainers will provide up to 20 free workshops across the U.K., each designed to help newsroom and freelance journalists sharpen their digital newsgathering and research skills. The practical workshops will feature technology from a range of providers and include real-life examples, including how individual journalists have traced original sources. We’ll also support the CIJ to host a conference in northern England for the first time, offering advanced skills for journalists living and working outside of London.

Established in 2003, The CIJ offers real expertise in investigative journalism standards and shares the Google News Initiative’s ambition to widen access to tools and training. The director of the CIJ, James Harkin, says: “Our leading concern is to put the best tools in the hands of investigative journalists, and then grow their expertise in using them. Building on our 15 years of expertise in data journalism, advanced internet research, financial search, and internet-powered fact-checking and our relationships of trust with the corporate and independent local media, ‘Access to Tools’ is the perfect way to extend the already impressive reach of our regional network and to get out there into more regional newsrooms, communities, and universities.”

In addition to our work with CIJ, we’ll continue to provide a free range of training workshops directly to newsrooms and journalism schools. Since the launch of the News Lab in 2015, we’ve trained nearly 7 thousand journalists in the U.K. alone—but there’s more to do.

You can learn more about the free U.K. workshops on the CIJ website. For those further afield, our Google News Initiative Training Center has a specific course on Investigative Reporting.

Powering up connected game development through our alliance with Unity

Whether they’re outwitting opponents in the latest mobile game, exploring massively multiplayer online worlds, or navigating 3D spaces in VR, players want to be connected—to new stories and experiences, to their favorite game creators, and to their fellow gamers.

But it can be challenging to build connected games. Developers find they need to spend valuable time and resources managing infrastructure when they should be doing what they are most passionate about—building great games. We want to help.

Today, we’re announcing a strategic alliance with Unity, a leading real-time 3D game and content creation platform, to simplify game development. Working together, we’re building a suite of managed services and tools for creating connected games, the first of which will focus on real-time multiplayer experiences.

As part of this, Google Cloud will be the default cloud provider for developers building connected games with Unity, helping them to easily build and scale their games. This means developers will be able to take advantage of Google Cloud right from the Unity development environment—from our robust global network that enables low-latency player connectivity, to the ability to quickly scale game servers, to multi-TB memory nodes that can hold massive 3D environments—all without needing to become cloud experts.

We’re also collaborating with Unity to co-found an open source project to connect players in multiplayer games. This project deeply embodies our philosophy for gaming—open source, community-driven solutions built in collaboration with the world’s leading game companies. This project will launch publicly for downloads and code contributions this summer—stay tuned for more in the coming months.

In addition, Unity has announced that it’s currently migrating all of the core infrastructure powering its services and offerings to Google Cloud. Unity will be running its business on the same cloud that Unity game developers will develop, test and globally launch their games.

We hope this alliance helps developers build more connected experiences that delight gamers. We’ll roll out new products and features over the coming months, and in the meantime, you can learn more by visiting the connected games page on Unity’s website. If you’re attending Unite Berlin this week, don’t miss the keynote featuring Google Cloud’s CEO Diane Greene on June 19 at 9:00 AM PT, or watch the live stream online.

We can’t wait to play what you build.

#IMakeApps: Meet Faith Ringgold, an 88-year old artist and game maker

Editor’s note: To celebrate the hard work, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of app makers around the world, this week, and over the coming months, we’ll celebrate our Android community by featuring founders, product managers, designers and developers from around the world. We’ll showcase their passions and also hear about what they do when they step away from their computers. Check out more #IMakeApps stories on g.co/play/imakeapps.

Faith Ringgold, an 88-year old artist and creator of Quiltuduko has been a pioneering figure in American art for six decades. She is a painter, mixed media sculptor, performance artist, author, educator and activist. She’s had exhibits in museums and galleries around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

In her 80s she came up with the idea for Quiltuduko, an art making game inspired by the Japanese number game, Sudoku. The rules are simple, the game can be a challenge, but the solution makes art.

This is what she told us when we caught up with her at ACA Galleries:

Why did you decide to embark into the world of technology?
The moment computers became available, I bought one for myself and one for each of my two daughters. When my granddaughter was very young I acquired a computer for her as well. I didn't want them to get lost in the TV and ignore their work. Computers allowed them to get information easily and learn about anything, anywhere, anytime. 

After I received my BA I considered the possibility of getting a masters degree in computer science rather than art. The computer field was new and opportunities were abundant for those interested. To clarify my dilemma, I went to Europe to meet with a group of artists who had left America. I wanted to see if I should do this too as I considered changing my major. In the end I received my Masters in art and art education.​ I love art​.

How did you come up with the idea of Quiltuduko?
I played the game Sudoku often and was impressed. I’ve always loved games and was good at solving puzzles. As I played Sudoku it became apparent to me that it would be better if color and images were used and not just numbers. When the game was finished I wanted to have something to look at​, not just numbers​.  

Early on, I discovered the Kuba design in Africa which repeats colors and images in a similar way as Sudoku. It introduced triangles as well as squares. I love design and decor. I've traveled all over the world being inspired by the designs of other cultures​, especially Africa​. When I created Quiltuduko, 9 images and different colors were used rather than just numbers.  

What was it like for you to work on the game?
Computers are getting more complicated and I'm still keeping up. I was good at computers and loved working on the game. It combines my love of art with my love of computers and puzzles. I love design and figuring things out and wanted to ​embellish the concept of ​Sudoku​ as an art game​.

Do you think mobile apps and games are a form of art?
Yes, definitely.  Quiltuduko is an art game. This game is an expansion of my own art.  These are my original designs and I consider them art, especially when the game is finished you have a work of art that can be printed, framed and enjoyed!

It's all about art and design. I have created original designs for the game but have also used existing works of art that I created in the pattern of Quiltuduko.  

What has been your experience with Android and Google Play?
I like both Android and Google Play. I played Sudoku on these platforms which gave me the idea of Quiltuduko. This game is great for adults to keep one's mind clear and active and it's also good for children​, and people who love art​.

Listen up: Google Podcasts is now on Android

Whether we’re listening to history lessons on the commute, news stories at the gym, or gripping mysteries while preparing dinner, podcasts have become an essential part of life. But, it can still be difficult to get started and find new shows you’ll love—and work still remains in making podcasts accessible and discoverable for all.

Today, we’re releasing the Google Podcasts app for Android, available globally in the Play Store. Integrated with the Google Assistant across your devices and packed with personalized recommendations, Google Podcasts is designed to make it easier than ever for Android users to discover and listen to podcasts. We’re also announcing a partnership with industry experts to improve diversity in podcast creation, and sharing a peek at how AI can help transform podcasting for the better.

Google Podcasts screenshots

Smarter recommendations with Google Podcasts

With Google Podcasts, you can listen and subscribe to any podcast, including popular shows like The Daily, Cyrus Says, Modern Love, Lage der Nation, The Bill Simmons Podcast, and literally millions more. Beyond the podcasts you already know, Google Podcasts uses AI to offer recommendations based on your listening habits—such as your interest in sports or true crime, or podcasts from a particular network.

Google Podcasts seamlessly syncs across a variety of Google products, including the Google Assistant. So if you’re listening to a podcast on your phone during your commute home, you can resume it on your Google Home when you arrive. Over time, we’ll integrate Google Podcasts into more places you use Google.

Podcasts on Google Assistant

How podcasters can optimize for Google

With Google Podcasts, we’re focused on helping podcast creators reach a broader audience. To ensure inclusion in the Google Podcasts app, creators should follow our updated developer guidelines, which you may already be familiar with for other Google apps. In today’s update, a few new sections cover how to:

  • Prompt Google to index new podcasts as quickly as possible

  • Generate a direct link to your podcast

  • Download the Google Podcasts brand assets for sharing on your website

  • Track analytics that come from Google Podcasts

Promoting inclusive storytelling in podcasting

Podcasting holds unbounded promise as a storytelling medium, but its future depends on a rich array of stories, voices and creators. While there are more podcasts than ever before, there continues to be an imbalance in who is creating them. Looking at top charts, only about a quarter of the most popular podcasts tend to be hosted by women, and even fewer by people of color.

That’s why we’re also partnering with the podcast industry on a program to increase the diversity of voices and remove barriers to podcasting. The program will be guided by an advisory board from around the world, with the primary goal of enabling skills development and experimentation from underrepresented voices, as well as cultivating ideas and processes that can scale throughout the industry. We’ll be rolling out more details this summer, and we encourage you to fill out the online form if you are interested.

The future of Google Podcasts

We couldn’t be more excited to help people around the world discover podcasts they’ll love, and this is just the beginning. Looking forward, Google Podcasts will be a launchpad for building an even better podcast listening experience using AI.

For example, as speech-to-text technology continues to improve, we’ll be able to provide new features like automatic subtitling, which is especially helpful if you are hearing impaired or in a noisy area without headphones. Powered by Google Translate, subtitles can then be made available in a wide variety of languages, further improving access to podcasts.

We’re excited about where we’re heading with Google Podcasts. To try out the new experience today, visit the Play store.

Joining forces in Europe to prepare for the future of work

Picture a pathologist leaning over a microscope, looking for cancerous cells in a sample. It’s hard, time-consuming work, yet also vitally important. But what if the microscope itself could give the doctor a second opinion, in real time? This kind of "virtual lab assistant" is no longer a distant concept; it's already here. The Augmented Reality Microscope for Cancer Detection, the subject of a Google research paper this spring, is a machine learning capability integrated into standard laboratory microscopes. It overlays visual analysis on the image, highlighting areas of risk and potentially catching things the human eye may miss.


This microscope is but one example of how new digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and robotics are changing the way tasks are done in the workplace, and in turn, the vast majority of existing jobs. In the future, healthcare professionals could spend less time running tests, and concentrate more on caring for patients. The trucker of the future may spend more time managing logistics at transfer hubs for self-driving trucks than behind the wheel—which could also lead to an increase in jobs in the sector.


In addition, new jobs are emerging. Across Europe Google is hiring hundreds of people for roles like Strategic Cloud Data Engineer, Android Relationship Lead,Big Data Product Specialist—positions that would simply not have existed a decade ago. A report last year from the MIT Sloan Management Review identified whole new categories of jobs that AI will create: trainers, explainers, and sustainers. In these roles, humans will work with cognitive technology to ensure that machines are both effective and responsibly deployed.

How Google is helping prepare for the future of work

We’re optimistic about the impact of digital technology on the world of work, but we’re not utopians. We understand change on this scale can be difficult, which is why we’re investing in training and other solutions to address changes in the labor market. Workers also want to prepare for this change: Demand for training is high, and people of all ages, backgrounds and experience levels want to acquire new skills that will enable them to succeed in the digital world.  


Our Grow with Google program aims to meet that demand with training workshops, direct mentoring and online courses. And it’s already seeing results: graduates have gained vital digital skills, improved their CVs and expanded businesses online. More than half a million businesses have reported growth in revenue and customers thanks to the program. We’ve trained 3 million people across Europe to date, and the next goal is to help 1 million Europeans find a job or grow their business by 2020.


For those who want to take it to the next level, we partnered with Udacity and Bertelsmann to offer 10,000 scholarships in web development at beginner and advanced levels. We were so overwhelmed by demand we decided to support a further 60,000 scholarships to create a new generation of developers from diverse backgrounds.


We’re working with partners at the national level to ensure that we reach as many people as we can with these programs. For example, we’re working closely with the Swedish Employment Agency on getting unemployed people learning digital skills through the Digital Me portal. And we’re working with training providers to broaden out the curriculum for Grow with Google and include more soft skills such as entrepreneurship, creativity and leadership.


Sharing insights with the OECD

We believe that the new world of work should be inclusive and accessible, and benefit society. And we want to play our role. That’s why we’re proud to join an initiative launched by the OECD in May to gather insight into how the evolving labor market can benefit everyone.


OECD group photo

The OECD asked business and academia representatives to share insights into how the evolving labor market can benefit everyone. The stakeholder group was launched at the OECD Forum in May 2018.

We believe that a great place to start is learning from digital leaders. At a recent Nordic conference on the future of work, the International Labour Organisation and the OECD suggested that the Nordic “digital frontrunner” countries should be a sandbox for the coming technology transition. We agree, and have shared some concrete suggestions with the OECD for what could be done:


  • We appreciate the power of data, so we believe there’s a real need to gather good examples of workers and companies succeeding in a changing labor market, and to identify champions to ensure a future of work that works for everyone. A Future of Work observatory could address this.

  • We need to be brave and create new solutions that protect workers, not jobs. We’ve been impressed by training vouchers, as recently initiated in Belgium and France—where workers accumulate credits for training over time, then spend them when needed. A sector-specific approach could also make sense: those most affected, such as transport or manufacturing,  could benefit from a dedicated future of work taskforce.

  • Educators are working on these issues, but they can’t be expected to do this alone. We see a need for skills partnerships so that teachers, employers and governments have the right strategy for changing skills needs. Again, we should look at those already succeeding: the technology pacts between industry and government in the Netherlands and Denmark are great examples.

That’s a lot of work, in a lot of areas. It will take a huge effort to make it happen. But the potential return on investment for getting this right is massive. Companies, governments and civil society need to think upfront about preparing people for new jobs, skills and technologies.

There’s only one chance to prepare for the future of work. It’s imperative that we all work together to get it right.

This article was also published on the OECD Forum Network.

Brush up on Chinese modern art with Google Arts & Culture

For the last century, the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing has been the preeminent school of art education in China. Some of the most renowned masters of Chinese modern art trained at this hallowed institution and many of their works are stored in the CAFA Art Museum.

CAFAM-ext

Opened in 2008, the CAFA Art Museum was designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki.

For CAFA’s 100th anniversary, Google Arts & Culture is taking the masterpieces in its museum to the world, for a new generation of art aficionados to enjoy. These include some iconic and rarely-exhibited works by the father of Chinese modern art Xu Beihong, like Tian Heng and His Five Hundred Followers and Behind Me.

behindme

Xu Beihong’s Behind Me depicts starving villagers waiting for liberation from the tyrannical rule of Emperor Jie of the Xia Dynasty. Xu painted this in 1931 after the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in Northeast China.

Xu, was the first President of CAFA. Although he lacked a formal art education, his talent was evident from an early age and he received financial assistance to study painting in Japan and Europe. Xu was obsessively dedicated to reviving Chinese art, which he thought had gone to seed because of its over-reliance on traditional Chinese methods of painting. He often spent more than 12 hours a day painting, integrating the best of Western and Chinese techniques. Xu’s works exemplify the realism that became a defining characteristic of Chinese modern art, and you can see over 100 of these pieces on Google Arts & Culture today.


Starting today, anyone with an internet connection can now explore Xu Beihong’s masterpieces, as well as the works of other Chinese modern art pioneers. The exhibit includes 27 ultra-high resolution images digitized with Art Camera that you can zoom into to explore fine details that may escape the naked eye. You can even step inside the CAFA Art Museum, exploring four floors of artworks with a 360° visual tour.

Visit and explore the Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum on Google Arts & Culture today, available on desktop, iOS and Android.

Five new features to try in Messages

Over the past few years, we’ve been working on improving the messaging experience on Android—from working with carriers to upgrade their networks to RCS to building new features. With Android Messages, we're creating a messaging experience that's available on multiple devices, lets you share whatever you want to share, and makes it easy to take action on your messages with Google AI. We’ve started making some of these updates to the Messages app and rounded up what’s new to show how you can use these features:

1. Send and receive texts from your computer

Today and over the next week, we’ll begin rolling out Messages for web, one of our top-requested features that lets you send and receive texts from your computer. To get started, select “Messages for web” in the menu of your Messages mobile app. On Messages for web, you can send stickers, emoji, and attach images in addition to sending text.

1

2. Search for and send the perfect GIF

Sometimes, a GIF is worth a thousand words and conveys exactly what you mean. Now, you can tap the + button on the left hand side of the compose bar to search for GIFs for your conversation.

2

3. Use Smart Reply to respond with a tap

Smart Reply saves you time when you’re messaging on the go by suggesting quick text or emoji responses to your messages. Once you’ve tapped a Smart Reply suggestion, it sends immediately. Smart Replies will be available in English for now, and come to more languages over time.

3

4. Preview links within your conversations

The next time your friend sends you a link to an article or a new restaurant, you’ll have an idea of what you’re about to click on. You’ll see an inline preview of the link, directly in your conversation.

4

5. Copy one-time passwords with one tap

Now, when you receive a message with a one-time password or code from a secure site—such as your bank—you can save time by copying that password directly from the message with a tap.

OTP phone

Messages for web is starting to roll out today, with the rest of these features coming to the Messages app over the next week. You can try them out by updating your app to the latest version or by downloading Messages here.

Five new features to try in Messages

Over the past few years, we’ve been working on improving the messaging experience on Android—from working with carriers to upgrade their networks to RCS to building new features. With Android Messages, we're creating a messaging experience that's available on multiple devices, lets you share whatever you want to share, and makes it easy to take action on your messages with Google AI. We’ve started making some of these updates to the Messages app and rounded up what’s new to show how you can use these features:

1. Send and receive texts from your computer

Today and over the next week, we’ll begin rolling out Messages for web, one of our top-requested features that lets you send and receive texts from your computer. To get started, select “Messages for web” in the menu of your Messages mobile app. On Messages for web, you can send stickers, emoji, and attach images in addition to sending text.

1

2. Search for and send the perfect GIF

Sometimes, a GIF is worth a thousand words and conveys exactly what you mean. Now, you can tap the + button on the left hand side of the compose bar to search for GIFs for your conversation.

2

3. Use Smart Reply to respond with a tap

Smart Reply saves you time when you’re messaging on the go by suggesting quick text or emoji responses to your messages. Once you’ve tapped a Smart Reply suggestion, it sends immediately. Smart Replies will be available in English for now, and come to more languages over time.

3

4. Preview links within your conversations

The next time your friend sends you a link to an article or a new restaurant, you’ll have an idea of what you’re about to click on. You’ll see an inline preview of the link, directly in your conversation.

4

5. Copy one-time passwords with one tap

Now, when you receive a message with a one-time password or code from a secure site —such as your bank—that you’re logging into, you can save time by copying that password directly from the message with a tap.

5

Messages for web is starting to roll out today, with the rest of these features coming to the Messages app over the next week. You can try them out by updating your app to the latest version or by downloading Messages here.

#IMakeApps: Getting to know the people behind the apps

App makers come up with ideas and make them a reality. They design, code and create entertaining experiences from nothing. But most importantly, app makers are exceptional individuals with different backgrounds, interests and dreams.

To celebrate their hard work, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, starting this week we’ll feature founders, product managers, designers and developers from the Android community around the world. We’ll showcase their passions and also hear about what they do when they step away from their computers.

But before we get started—are you an app or game maker? If so, we want to hear from you. Post on your social channels using #IMakeApps, sharing the app or game you work on, your role in its creation, and an image that best depicts who you are outside of work. We’ll be picking and sharing some of our favorites on our channels. And stay tuned for more #IMakeApps stories on g.co/play/imakeapps.

To kick things off, we’ll hear from our first app maker: Hans Jørgen Wiberg, a visually impaired chair restorer from Denmark and co-founder and inventor of Be My Eyes.

Hans Jørgen Wiberg, Chair restorer, Denmark

When and why did you get involved with technology?
At 25 I was diagnosed with an eye disease, so I gave up my plans to take over my family’s farm. Instead, I studied for a degree in philosophy and went on to restore chairs. So I’m not a techie and never thought I’d become one. I then came up with the idea for Be My Eyes in 2012 and that was the beginning of my tech journey as more than a smartphone user.

How did you come up with the idea for the app?
I am going blind myself and was also working for the Danish blind association as a consultant. Some of my blind friends were reaching out to friends and family via video calling services to ask for visual assistance but they always had to decide exactly who to call—this sparked the idea of Be My Eyes and a community of volunteers who could step in.

How did you kick off the project?
I took the idea to an event looking for support to turn it into a reality. I was lucky enough to be able to form a team of interested people; they have been working with me on this project ever since. The first year we spent raising the money, which allowed me to start hiring professional coders to build the app.

What has been your experience with Android & Google Play?
Since we launched our Android version in October 2017 we have had some very interesting numbers in places like Brazil and India and we consider Android a key factor in our goal of reaching the 90 percent of blind people living in low income settings. It was also great to win the Google Play Award to the best accessibility app earlier this year.

How has your app business grown since you started?
Be My Eyes is my only app. It has grown enormously since launch and it seems to be picking up speed over the last few months where we have increased +20%. Our network of over 1 million sighted volunteers now help visually impaired people in over 150 countries and over 180 languages.  

Four new ways to save data with Datally

Daily Limit and Guest Mode put limits on how much data you and your guests can use on your phone


Since we launched Datally last year, people around the world have used the Android app to better understand, control and save data. The average user has saved 21 percent of their mobile data—that’s like using data Monday to Thursday, and having Friday covered by Datally.


Here are four ways Datally can help you save even more:

Guest Mode–stay in control when lending your phone

Ever have a family member or friend borrow your phone, and then see they’ve used a lot more data than you expected? We love our family, but data hogging is not cool. A new feature, Guest Mode, lets you set the amount of data you’re okay to let another person use, before you hand over your phone.

Daily Limit–decide how much data to use everyday

It’s too easy to accidentally burn through your entire data pack. Daily Limit helps you control your own data use. You can set the maximum amount of data you want to spend per day, and get warnings when you’re about to bust through your limit. You can choose to block data for the rest of the day or keep going.

Unused Apps–stop your phone from leaking data

Did you know that for many people, 20 percent of mobile data is used in the background by apps they haven’t opened in over a month? Unused Apps shows you the apps that you’re not using, but that are taking up your precious data. With one tap, you can uninstall an unused app and keep your phone from leaking data.

Wi-Fi Map–an even easier way to find Wi-Fi

The Wi-Fi Map shows you all of the nearby Wi-Fi networks, so you can find the best quality network nearby. More Wi-Fi should help you continue surfing the net without worrying about how much it’s eating into your data plan. You can even rate that network after you connect.


Datally WiFi

Stop your phone leaking data with Unused Apps and find Wi-Fi nearby with Wi-Fi Map

All of these new features are rolling out today.