Category Archives: Official Google Blog

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

5 ways to beat holiday stress with the Google Assistant

Five more gifts to buy, three projects to wrap up before the holiday break and one big family dinner to host. Anyone else have an end-of-the-year list like this? Here's how the Google Assistant is helping me get through it all:

1. Stay organized with notes and lists

If you’re like me, inspiration strikes when you’re busy, like while cooking, commuting or playing with the kids. Starting to roll out today, you can use your Assistant to create and manage your notes and lists in Google Keep, Any.do, AnyList, or Bring! across Assistant-enabled phones and smart speakers. Lists are also available on Smart Displays. 


To get started, simply connect the Assistant with the app you use to create notes or lists. Select the “Services” tab in your Google Assistant settings and then choose your preferred provider name from the “Notes and Lists” section. Once connected, new notes and lists created from supported Assistant surfaces will appear in your chosen provider. You can also ask the Assistant for your historical notes and lists that were createdbefore you connected the Assistant with your chosen provider, but these will not be visible in the provider’s app.


Here are a few things to try, starting with “Hey Google…”:

  • “Create a holiday gift list.”

  • “Add Chromebook to my holiday gift list.”

  • “Add cranberries to my grocery list.”

  • “Take a note.”

  • “Show me my notes.”

2. Assign reminders to your housemates and family members 

Assignable reminders help families and housemates collaborate and stay organized all year around. You can create reminders for your partner or roommate to pick up eggnog from the store, order gift wrapping paper or mail your holiday cards. To assign a reminder, ask your Assistant, “Hey Google, remind Nick to pick up Mom from the airport tonight.”  

3. Find and share photos using just your voice

It’s now easier than ever to find and share your favorite holiday memories, simply by using your voice. On your Android phone, just say, “Hey Google, look up photos from this weekend," tap your favorite pictures and then say, "Hey Google, share these photos with Lizzie.” Your Assistant helps you search through your photos, pick your favorites, and send them to your friends or family. 

4. Listen to podcasts by topic

Heading to a potluck and tasked with bringing an entree? Turn to your Assistant for some cooking inspiration. When you ask the Assistant for podcasts about a certain topic—“Hey Google, find a podcast about holiday cooking”—it’ll suggest relevant episodes for you. Or if you’re looking to get a head start on productivity and self improvement, just ask, “Hey Google, show me podcasts about New Year's resolutions.” The feature is available now in English on all Assistant-enabled devices globally. 

5. Enjoy a pick-me-up while running errands 

And, while you’re getting your last minute holiday shopping done, the Assistant can help you get a sweet treat or or a pick-me-up from Dunkin’. If you have the Dunkin’ App installed on your Android phone, just say “Hey Google, order a latte from Dunkin,” to quickly start your order.


I hope these features will make your holiday season just a little bit easier, so you can focus on spending time with family.


Our annual pay equity review

Compensation should be based on what you do, not who you are. We design compensation to be fair and equitable from the outset—but because these are human processes, it’s important to double-check them. 

Each year we run a rigorous statistical analysis to make sure all new salaries, bonuses and equity awards are fair. We take into account things that should impact pay, such as role, level, location and performance. If we find any differences in proposed pay between men and women globally or by race and ethnicity or age in the U.S., we make upward adjustments.

Each year, we continue to improve our analytical approach. This year we included a higher percentage of Googlers in our analysis than before (now 93 percent worldwide), and for the first time we analyzed Googlers age 40 and over in the U.S. After thorough review, we increased compensation for 2 percent of employees to ensure that there were no inconsistencies for any demographic group. Increases totalled $5.1 million, and Googlers that received adjustments fell into every demographic category.

Ensuring fairness is a never-ending process, and our pay equity analysis is just one part of a larger effort to improve our practices. We know that employees’ level, performance ratings, and promotion history also impact pay, which is why we’re continuing to focus on all of our people processes to ensure that Google is a great place to work for everyone. 

You can read more about our pay equity analysis methodology on our re:Work site.

Europe and Africa code weeks: 136,000 students learn to code

Within the next 10 to 15 years, 90 percent of all jobs in Europe will require some level of technology education, and now is the time for the future workforce to start acquiring these skills. Computer Science (CS) programs all over the world are helping prepare students for the new global economy and helping them channel their excitement and passion into real world creations.

This October, we supported Europe Code Week,a movement started by the European Commission,for the sixth consecutive year, and Africa Code Week for the fourth consecutive year. In total, Google funded 88 education organizations in 41 countries, reaching a grand total of 136,000 students. 

This is part of our commitment to help one million Europeans grow their careers by the end of 2020 and to train 10 million Africans in digital skills by 2022 as part of Grow with Google. 

As our work with Europe Code Week shows, this support is making a difference. Here are just a few stories from among the 33 organizations we funded in 23 countries and through which 21,291 students learned CS.

Europe Code Week

Africa Code Week 

In Africa, we joined forces with SAP and Africa Code Week to fund 55 organizations and grassroots groups across 18 countries. Over 115,000 students were able to explore CS through a variety of fun and interactive workshops. See some of their stories below.

We’re thrilled to help these students and teachers gain coding experience in Europe and Africa and look forward to inspiring even more students in 2020.

Cloud Covered: What was new in November on Google Cloud

November was a cornucopia of Google Cloud news and tips, with new ways for companies to start using the cloud and improve the way they work. We’re thankful this season for all the ways cloud can make everyday work easier, and for all the cool technology that just keeps evolving.  

Take this easy path to cloud.

In November, we announced the acquisition of CloudSimple, a company that provides a secure, dedicated environment to run VMware workloads in the cloud. VMware is the company that invented virtualization, a way to use physical computer servers much more efficiently (find a full explanation here). This acquisition will make it easier for businesses running all kinds of applications on VMware, like their finance or HR software, to easily migrate those workloads to Google Cloud.

Try a do-it-yourself cloud kit.

OK, so it’s a bit more complicated than putting together something from IKEA. But our Bare Metal Solution became available at the Next UK conference. When businesses are starting to run applications based in the cloud, there can be some stragglers that are harder to move than others. That may be because of their underlying code, or the fact that they were built before cloud existed. This Bare Metal Solution brings all the tools and network connections that a business needs to start using native Google Cloud services.

We get by with a little help from our … work tools.

At the same conference, we announced new, AI-powered features to help you get through your work day more efficiently. First, fresh updates to Google Docs help you produce error-free work. And second, we announced expanded integrations between the Google Assistant and G Suite. These new features continue G Suite’s mission to help businesses become more productive and to streamline work. Check out details in this post.

Thanks for calling. How can cloud help you?

Our Contact Center AI platform became generally available last month, so companies can personalize their customer support. This is the kind of technology that powers the good experiences you have when you call customer support and are directed through options using your voice. Two features of Contact Center AI, Virtual Agent and Agent Assist (which is now generally available), both improve the customer experience while adding efficiency for the business. Virtual Agent helps provide 24/7 access to immediate, conversational self-service, while Agent Assist helps customer service agents through their work with continuous support in real time.

A networking control center helps IT take charge.

The newly introduced Network Intelligence Center can help those IT teams in charge of a company’s network (yes, that’s a very important job!) monitor across the cloud and in the company’s data centers. Networks involve a lot of moving pieces, and they all have to work together to make sure everything runs smoothly, from delivering emails immediately for employees to providing fast, uninterrupted experiences for customers. The Network Intelligence Center anticipates some of the common challenges that IT teams deal with and helps them do testing and see performance easily.

That’s a wrap for November! Till next time, stay tuned to the cloud blog.

International Volunteer Day: a spotlight on GoVolunteer

In 2015, more than 1 million people sought asylum in Germany. Faced with this overwhelming humanitarian crisis, many Germans wanted to help but didn’t know how. Inspired by his fellow citizens’ willingness to lend a hand, Malte Bedürftig founded GoVolunteer, an online platform connecting people and corporations to volunteering opportunities and social initiatives. After GoVolunteer joined the Google for Nonprofits program, they gained more online visibility through Ad Grants and more team structure and efficiency through G Suite for Nonprofits. 

“We were a group of people who wanted to help others, inspired by the dream of changing things,” says Malte. Since then, Malte and his friends have built GoVolunteer into a full-fledged nonprofit, connecting 250,000 people to more than 3,500 volunteer opportunities in 250 cities across Germany. 

Today, in honor of the UN’s International Volunteer Day, we’re recognizing GoVolunteer and everyone else who makes time to help others. Watch the video to learn more about GoVolunteer’s journey and how Google for Nonprofits has supported their growth.

Share your own volunteer story with #IVD2019 and #InternationalVolunteerDay.

Improving real-time data for newsrooms everywhere

Earlier this year, in close collaboration with local news publishers, we created Realtime Content Insights (RCI) to help newsrooms around the world make quick, data-driven content and distribution decisions. With this free tool, journalists can identify which articles are the most popular among their readers, as well as what broader topics are trending online in their regions. 


Realtime Content Insights Home

Realtime Content Insights displays real-time Google Analytics data to inform content performance.

Since its launch, RCI has brought the benefits of real-time analytics to newsrooms of all sizes from over 140 countries. During this time, we’ve learned from our conversations with publishers that our tool has helped editorial teams make content decisions during trending events and cultural moments, like elections. 


Given how quickly political landscapes evolve, many publishers are using RCI to keep pace with readers’ interests and popular topics. Access to real-time analytics has helped publishers decide which stories to cover and how to get articles in front of the right readers, plus measure audience engagement and identify coverage gaps.


For example, Dainik Jagran, the most-read newspaper in India, used RCI to monitor Google Trends and Twitter conversations during the 2019 general elections. The tool helped their newsroom understand voter questions about the political race, prioritize covering and promoting the news stories that mattered most to their audience and build loyalty with readers over time. Those strategies resulted in a 450 percent boost in traffic, 180 percent increase in the time readers spent on their site and 300 percent growth in ad revenue on election day. 


Rappler, a social news organization in the Philippines, also invested in making data central to everyday decision-making during their general election earlier this year. This included equipping employees with the resources and ability to understand and use data. After the election, Rappler used RCI to sustain audience growth and build loyalty. They set up RCI's "newsroom" view, alongside other data dashboards, throughout their offices, so editors can monitor the performance of sections in real-time. This approach resulted in an 8 percent increase in the number of articles read per visit and a 16 percent increase in average monthly readers year-over-year.


Over the last few months, we’ve heard similar success stories and received feedback from publishers on how to improve the tool. That’s why we’re introducing a new Trending Topics section within RCI that provides publishers with more real-time data from Google Trends. This information will help newsrooms better understand what readers care about and help inform content creation as news unfolds.


Realtime Content Insights Data

Realtime Content Insights shows data on trending topics.

Here’s how it works: In the Trending Topics section, journalists can select a newsworthy event, such as the Summer Olympics, Brexit or the U.S. presidential election. RCI will then surface related topics and queries that are trending across the web, as well as show how reader interest has changed over time through charts. For example, a publisher may notice readers who are interested in the presidential election are also interested in a specific issue raised during a recent debate, such as income inequality. This could inspire future articles on the topic to meet readers’ needs.


The module will continue to introduce new topics relevant to global publishers over time. Check out our user guide for more information on Trending Topics, plus new enhancements we’re introducing to make RCI even easier to use.


How ultrasound sensing makes Nest displays more accessible

Last year, I gave my 74-year-old father a Nest Hub for Christmas. Over the following months, I noticed he would often walk up to the device to read the information on the screen, because he couldn’t see it easily from across the room. I wondered if other people were having the same issue. 

My team at Google Nest and I started having conversations with older adults in our lives who use our products, asking them questions about ways they use their devices and observing how they interact with them. In the course of our research, we learned that one in three people over the age of 65 have a vision-reducing eye disease, and that’s on top of the millions of people of all ages who also deal with some form of vision impairment. 

We wanted to create a better experience for people who have low vision. So we set out to create a way for more people to easily see our display from any distance in a room, without compromising the useful information the display could show when nearby. The result is a feature we call ultrasound sensing. 

We needed to find a sensing technology that could detect whether you were close to a device or far away from it and show you the right things based on that distance, while protecting people’s privacy. Our engineers landed on one that was completely new to Google Assistant products, but has been used in the animal kingdom for eons: echolocation. 

Animals with low vision—like bats and dolphins—use echolocation to understand and navigate their environments. Bats emit ultrasonic “chirps” and listen to how those chirps bounce off of objects in their environments and travel back to them. In the same way, Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max emit inaudible sound waves to gauge your proximity to the device. If you’re close, the screen will show you more details and touch controls, and when you’re further away, the screen changes to show only the most important information in larger text. Ultrasound sensing allows our smart displays to react to a user’s distance. 

Directions on a Nest Hub

Ultrasound sensing allows your display to show the most important information when you’re far away, like your total commute time, and show more detail as you get close to the device.

To develop the right screen designs, the team tested varying text heights, contrast levels and information density and measured the ease with which people could read what’s on the screen. It was refreshing when, regardless of age or visual impairment, testers would make comments like, “it just feels easier to read.” It turned out that designing for people with low vision improved the experience for everyone.

Ultrasound testint

Testing ultrasound sensing during the design process.

Ultrasound waves

What ultrasound sensing “sees” on a smart display.

Ultrasound sensing already works for timers, commute times and weather. And over the coming week, your devices will also begin to show reminders, appointments and alerts when you approach the display. Because this is using a low-resolution sensing technology, ultrasound sensing happens entirely on the device and is only able to detect large-scale motion (like a person moving), without being able to identify who the person is.

After we built the ultrasound sensing feature, I tested it with my dad. As soon as I saw him reading his cooking timer on the screen from across the kitchen, I knew we’d made something that would make our devices even more helpful to more people. 

Minimize distractions and get things done with Android’s Focus mode

It’s that time of the year again—the home stretch before the holidays. It’s when we rally to make end-of-year deadlines or put our heads down to study for final exams. It also happens to be when we plan holiday travels, shop for gifts and coordinate festivities with family and friends, all while trying to balance our daily activities. It can feel like there aren't enough hours in a day to get everything done. And because so much of this planning happens on our smartphones, it's easy to be distracted by notifications and your favorite apps.

Focus mode is a new Digital Wellbeing tool on Android, now out of beta, that helps you get things done by temporarily pausing apps so you can focus on the task at hand. You can select apps you currently find distracting (like social media or games) and if you try to open them, Focus mode will remind you that app is paused. Focus mode will also silence those apps’ notifications until you’re ready to switch out of the mode. This means you can use your phone without interruptions from apps you don't need right away.


Focus-Mode-1-Phone-Square.gif

Caption: Pause the apps you find distracting and get in the zone

Over the past few months, our beta testers shared with us how they use Focus mode and how it can be more helpful. Their feedback inspired us to include a few new features with today’s launch. For example, we’ve added an option to automatically turn Focus mode on and off for the days and times that you choose (e.g. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays). This is especially handy for setting daily schedules; you can minimize distractions during the hours you’re at work, school or home. We also added an option to take a break, which lets you step out of Focus mode to use certain apps and jump back in when you’re ready. And if you’ve completed your tasks early, you can simply turn off Focus mode and it’ll resume as scheduled the next day.

digital_wellbeing_54_device_square.png

Caption: You can take a short break from Focus mode

Focus mode is available on all devices that currently have Digital Wellbeing and parental controls settings, including new phones launching with Android 9 and Android 10. 


We hope that Focus mode and our Digital Wellbeing tools help you stay productive, unplug when you need to, and be in control of how and when you use your Android phone—especially during this hectic time of the year. Learn more about our tools at android.com/digital-wellbeing.


Live from the North Pole, it’s Santa’s Village!

Good day from Santa Tracker HQ! I’m Dimplesticks the Elf, news anchor for the North Pole Broadcasting Channel. This year, our candy-cane broadcast antenna extends beyond Santa’s Village with Google as our official global rebroadcast partner.

Every day over the next three weeks, you can ask your Google Assistant for my reports from the top of the world. Just say, “Hey Google, what’s new at the North Pole?” You’ll also catch my daily North Pole Newscast alongside other minty-fresh NPBC programming like PMZ, the Reindeer Report, and Good Sleigh Today, on Google’s social channels.

What’s new in Santa’s village

And now for our top headline: Santa’s Village has a big makeover this year. Scroll down from the snowy scene up top to discover Santa’s new toy factory, his greenhouse and the reindeer gym. Just click or tap your way to over two dozen games and learning activities—including a new 3D snowbox where you can build your own wintery scene. 

Santa's Village

There are two kinds of scoops in my world: mint chocolate chip ice cream, and stories nobody else has reported. So here's some breaking news: holiday cheer is spilling over from the North Pole, and into a bunch of different Google products.

More ways to be merry 

On Google Earth, test your knowledge of holiday traditions around the world, or take a tour of the tasty treats people eat in various countries this time of year. Then jingle all the way to Image Search (best on mobile) or Tenor and look for Santa Tracker GIFs to make all your messages merry and bright. And it turns out my reporting isn’t the only sweet treat from the Google Assistant. Just ask, “Hey Google, give me a Santa joke" for some good ol’ ho-ho-ho, or say, “Hey Google, call Santa” to help him solve a wacky problem—coming up with a musical genre for his new band. Parents who want their kids to use the Google Assistant can create an account for their kids under 13—or the applicable age in your country—through Family Link.

Some of you eagle-eyed jollymakers may have observed that a few of the activities in the village are still hidden. Mrs. Claus gave me an exclusive overview of what’s to come, but because I promised to keep everything she told me under wraps, all I can say is that in a few more sleeps, there’ll be even more ways to play. Gotta keep you on your mistle-toes! 

We’re sticking with this story tighter than an elf’s tongue on a frozen pole. (Ow!) So follow me and my esteemed colleagues from the North Pole Broadcasting Channel on Google’s social accounts. Or you can search for Santa Tracker on Google for a link to a daily dose of delight.

With your Elfwitness News, I’m Dimplesticks at the North Pole!

Uniting to address plastic waste and pollution

Plastic is everywhere. Nearly 400 million tons of plastic are produced each year and the majority of it ends up in landfills and incinerators, or by leaking into the environment. Each of us ingests 5 grams of microplastic each week, the equivalent of a credit card worth of plastic. Without comprehensive and large-scale interventions, we can expect that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. 


Ending plastic waste requires rethinking the way we design, produce, package, deliver, use, recycle and dispose of all consumer products. The first step is to move past the single-use disposable products and switch to more reusable and recyclable solutions. However, we also need to build better collection and recycling infrastructure to handle the volume of materials used in products today. Ultimately, we need a future where all materials and molecules can be repurposed and reused, just like in nature.


A circular economy is a system that eliminates waste and pollution. For us, that means maximizing the reuse of resources across our operations, products and supply chains, and enabling others to do the same. Today, we’re announcing that Google is a technology partner to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Initiative, which unites more than 400 businesses, governments and other organizations behind a common vision to address plastic waste and pollution. As a partner, we’ll support these organizations in the goal of ending plastic waste through packaging redesign and new delivery models. 


Here’s more information about our efforts to develop new tools, sponsor research and support the market for recycled plastics:

  • We recently partnered with Earth 911 to bring better recycling information to the Google Assistant in North America. This will help people make better, more informed decisions about what to recycle based on their location. 

  • 100 percent of the Nest products launching in 2019 are built with recycled plastics in an effort to keep materials in use longer and support recycling markets. By 2022, all Made by Google products will include recycled materials and we will maximize recycled content wherever possible.

  • To encourage other companies to adopt new recycling technologies, we worked with Closed Loop Partners on their report that includes guidance and information on how companies can better support the recycling of plastics.


A circular economy for plastics requires both creativity and concerted action. A systemic shift to a circular economy goes far beyond Google, but we’re committed to doing our part in our operations, products, supply chains, and enabling others to do the same across the world.