Shields are in, brooms are out: this year’s top Halloween costume trends

What are you dressing up as this year? Every Halloween, people across the United States turn to Google to search for what to wear on the spookiest night of the year. And with our tool Frightgeist, you’ll get a view of Halloween costume trends across the U.S., and you can see the most-searched costumes near you (and avoid those embarrassing Halloween party costume clashes).

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This year, the top 10 costume list reflects everything from movie hits like “Wonder Woman” and “It” to the perennial appeal of the (walking) undead.

  1. Wonder Woman
  2. Harley Quinn
  3. Clown
  4. Unicorn
  5. Rabbit
  6. Witch
  7. Mouse
  8. Pirate
  9. Zombie
  10. Dinosaur

If the top 10 isn’t enough, you can explore the top 100 costumes across the country: Click on a costume and you can see how it’s trending, where it’s searched, and how it’s changed over time. In the top 100 list, film characters account for a fifth of costume searches, followed by animals at 12 percent and comic book characters at 11 percent.

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In 2016 Harley Quinn, inspired by “Suicide Squad,” ruled All Hallows Eve—but this year the Princess of the Amazons has dethroned her. We’re also seeing some new entries to the list—these are new additions to the top 100 list since last Halloween:

  1. Moana
  2. IT
  3. Emoji
  4. Stranger Things
  5. Thing 1

To see what people are searching in your hometown or other cities around the country, click on “Costume Map.” (We see you and your elephants, Casper, WY. But no love for the friendly ghost?)


Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 2.13.00 PM.png

Just because a costume is in the top 10 doesn’t mean it will stay there. These are the costumes with the biggest drop in rankings over the last year:


1. Maleficent

2. Knight

3. Frankenstein

4. Evil Queen

5. Snow White


And if you still can’t decide what to wear, you should check out the costume wizard. Set the spookiness and originality settings and see what it comes back with.

Expanding access to renewable energy in the EU

Earlier this year, we hosted an event in Brussels that brought business leaders, policy makers and civil society together to discuss ways to ensure EU renewable energy policy meets the changing needs of consumers. Last week, we were back in Brussels to continue the discussion at RE-Source, the largest gathering in the EU to-date of companies committed to buying renewable energy to cover their operations.


With 14 data centers on four continents and offices in 150 cities around the globe, Google consumes a lot of power. And combating climate change requires the world to transition to a clean energy economy. So we’ve made it a top priority not only to become more energy efficient but also to ensure that the energy we purchase comes from clean sources such as renewables. We have also found that purchasing energy from renewable resources also makes good business sense, for two key reasons:

  • The cost to produce and deploy renewable energy technologies like wind and solar has come down precipitously in recent years. In fact, in a growing number of areas, renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy available on the grid.
  • For those of us who manage a global power portfolio like many corporations, renewable energy contracts provide financial certainty and protection against fuel-price volatility.
Gary Demasi at RE SOURCE
Gary Demasi, Global Director of Data Center Energy and Location Strategy, during a fireside chat with Sonja van Renssen, Co-founder, Energy Post, at RE-Source 2017

Google is the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world. To date, we’ve signed contracts to purchase 2.6 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy. In the EU alone, we have signed 669 MW of deals across 8 projects in Sweden, Norway, and The Netherlands and we are on track to reach 100% renewable energy for our operations in 2017—a major milestone. You can read more about our global sustainability efforts in the 2017 progress update of Google’s Environmental Report.


Despite this progress, many barriers to purchasing renewable energy still exist. The challenge ahead is to drive even more renewable purchasing and grow the size of the market. The EU is currently considering a series of directives on clean energy that provide opportunity to remove many of these barriers.  We look forward to working with EU policymakers and other stakeholders to ensure these efforts maximize the opportunity to scale renewables across Europe. For us, reaching 100% renewable energy purchasing on a global and annual basis is an important milestone but we’re just getting started. We want to help ensure that all energy consumers have a clear and easy path to choosing renewable sources.

Playtime 2017: Find success on Google Play and grow your business with new Play Console features


Originally Posted by Vineet Buch, Director of Product Management, Google Play Apps & Games on the Android Developers Blog
Today we kicked off our annual global Playtime series with back-to-back events in Berlin and San Francisco. Over the next month, we’ll be hearing from many app and game developers in cities around the world. It has been an amazing 2017 for developers on Google Play, there are now more than 8 billion new installs per month globally.

To help you continue to take advantage of this opportunity, we're announcing innovations on Google Play and new features in the Play Console. Follow us on Medium where presenters will be posting their strategies, best practices, and examples to help you achieve your business objectives. As Google Play continues to grow rapidly, we want to help people understand our business. That's why we're also publishing the State of Play 2017 report that will be updated annually to help you stay informed about our progress and how we’re helping developers succeed.


Apps and games on Google Play bring your devices to life, whether they're phones and tablets, Wear devices, TVs, Daydream, or Chromebooks like the new Google Pixelbook. We're making it even easier for people to discover and re-engage with great content on the Play Store.



Recognizing the best

We're investing in curation and editorial to showcase the highest quality apps and games we love. The revamped Editors' Choice is now live in 17 countries and Android Excellence recently welcomed new apps and games. We also continue to celebrate and support indie games, recently announcing winners of the Indie Games Festival in San Francisco and opening the second Indie Games Contest in Europe for nominations.



Discovering great games

We've launched an improved home for games with trailers and screenshots of gameplay and two new browse destinations are coming soon, 'New' (for upcoming and trending games) and 'Premium' (for paid games).



Going beyond installs

We’re showing reminders to try games you’ve recently installed and we’re expanding our successful ‘live operations’ banners on the Play Store, telling you about major in-game events in popular games you’ve got on your device. We're also excited to integrate Android Instant Apps with a 'Try it Now' button on store listings. With a single tap, people can jump right into the app experience without installing.



The new games experience on Google Play


The Google Play Console offers tools which help you and your team members at every step of an app’s lifecycle. Use the Play Console to improve app quality, manage releases with confidence, and increase business performance.



Focus on quality

Android vitals were introduced at I/O 2017 and already 65% of top developers are using the dashboard to understand their app's performance. We're adding five new Android vitals and increasing device coverage to help you address issues relating to battery consumption, crashes, and render time. Better performing apps are favored by Google Play's search and discovery algorithms.
We're improving pre-launch reports and enabling them for all developers with no need to opt-in. When you upload an alpha or beta APK, we'll automatically install and test your app on physical, popular devices powered by Firebase Test Lab. The report will tell you about crashes, display issues, security vulnerabilities, and now, performance issues encountered.
When you install a new app, you expect it to open and perform normally. To ensure people installing apps and games from Google Play have a positive experience and developers benefit from being part of a trusted ecosystem, we are introducing a policy to disallow apps which consistently exhibit broken experiences on the majority of devices such as​ crashing,​ closing,​ ​freezing,​ ​or​ ​otherwise​ ​functioning​ ​abnormally. Learn more in the policy center.




Release with confidence

Beta testing lets trusted users try your app or game before it goes to production so you can iterate on your ideas and gather feedback. You can now target alpha and beta tests to specific countries. This allows you to, for example, beta test in a country you're about to launch in, while people in other countries receive your production app. We'll be bringing country-targeting to staged rollouts soon.
We've also made improvements to the device catalog. Over 66% of top developers are using the catalog to ensure they provide a great user experience on the widest range of devices. You can now save device searches and see why a specific device doesn't support your app. Navigate to the device catalog and review the terms of service to get started.




Grow your subscriptions business

At I/O 2017 we announced that both the number of subscribers on Play and the subscriptions business revenue doubled in the preceding year. We're making it easier to setup and manage your subscription service with the Play Billing Library and, soon, new test instruments to simplify testing your flows for successful and unsuccessful payments.
We're helping you acquire and retain more subscribers. You can offer shorter free trials, at a minimum of three days, and we will now enforce one free trial at the app level to reduce the potential for abuse. You can opt-in to receive notifications when someone cancels their subscription and we're making it easier for people to restore a canceled subscription. Account hold is now generally available, where you can block access to your service while we get a user to fix a renewal payment issue. Finally, from January 2018 we're also updating our transaction fee for subscribers who are retained for more than 12 months.




Announcing the Google Play Security Reward Program

At Google, we have long enjoyed a close relationship with the security research community. Today we're introducing the Google Play Security Reward Program to incentivize security research into popular Android apps, including Google's own apps. The program will help us find vulnerabilities and notify developers via security recommendations on how to fix them. We hope to bring the success we have with our other reward programs, and we invite developers and the research community to work together with us on proactively improving Google Play ecosystem's security.



Stay up to date with Google Play news and tips





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Announcing AVA: A Finely Labeled Video Dataset for Human Action Understanding



Teaching machines to understand human actions in videos is a fundamental research problem in Computer Vision, essential to applications such as personal video search and discovery, sports analysis, and gesture interfaces. Despite exciting breakthroughs made over the past years in classifying and finding objects in images, recognizing human actions still remains a big challenge. This is due to the fact that actions are, by nature, less well-defined than objects in videos, making it difficult to construct a finely labeled action video dataset. And while many benchmarking datasets, e.g., UCF101, ActivityNet and DeepMind’s Kinetics, adopt the labeling scheme of image classification and assign one label to each video or video clip in the dataset, no dataset exists for complex scenes containing multiple people who could be performing different actions.

In order to facilitate further research into human action recognition, we have released AVA, coined from “atomic visual actions”, a new dataset that provides multiple action labels for each person in extended video sequences. AVA consists of URLs for publicly available videos from YouTube, annotated with a set of 80 atomic actions (e.g. “walk”, “kick (an object)”, “shake hands”) that are spatial-temporally localized, resulting in 57.6k video segments, 96k labeled humans performing actions, and a total of 210k action labels. You can browse the website to explore the dataset and download annotations, and read our arXiv paper that describes the design and development of the dataset.

Compared with other action datasets, AVA possesses the following key characteristics:
  • Person-centric annotation. Each action label is associated with a person rather than a video or clip. Hence, we are able to assign different labels to multiple people performing different actions in the same scene, which is quite common.
  • Atomic visual actions. We limit our action labels to fine temporal scales (3 seconds), where actions are physical in nature and have clear visual signatures.
  • Realistic video material. We use movies as the source of AVA, drawing from a variety of genres and countries of origin. As a result, a wide range of human behaviors appear in the data.
Examples of 3-second video segments (from Video Source) with their bounding box annotations in the middle frame of each segment. (For clarity, only one bounding box is shown for each example.)

To create AVA, we first collected a diverse set of long form content from YouTube, focusing on the “film” and “television” categories, featuring professional actors of many different nationalities. We analyzed a 15 minute clip from each video, and uniformly partitioned it into 300 non-overlapping 3-second segments. The sampling strategy preserved sequences of actions in a coherent temporal context.

Next, we manually labeled all bounding boxes of persons in the middle frame of each 3-second segment. For each person in the bounding box, annotators selected a variable number of labels from a pre-defined atomic action vocabulary (with 80 classes) that describe the person’s actions within the segment. These actions were divided into three groups: pose/movement actions, person-object interactions, and person-person interactions. Because we exhaustively labeled all people performing all actions, the frequencies of AVA’s labels followed a long-tail distribution, as summarized below.
Distribution of AVA’s atomic action labels. Labels displayed in the x-axis are only a partial set of our vocabulary.

The unique design of AVA allows us to derive some interesting statistics that are not available in other existing datasets. For example, given the large number of persons with at least two labels, we can measure the co-occurrence patterns of action labels. The figure below shows the top co-occurring action pairs in AVA with their co-occurrence scores. We confirm expected patterns such as people frequently play instruments while singing, lift a person while playing with kids, and hug while kissing.
Top co-occurring action pairs in AVA.

To evaluate the effectiveness of human action recognition systems on the AVA dataset, we implemented an existing baseline deep learning model that obtains highly competitive performance on the much smaller JHMDB dataset. Due to challenging variations in zoom, background clutter, cinematography, and appearance variation, this model achieves a relatively modest performance when correctly identifying actions on AVA (18.4% mAP). This suggests that AVA will be a useful testbed for developing and evaluating new action recognition architectures and algorithms for years to come.

We hope that the release of AVA will help improve the development of human action recognition systems, and provide opportunities to model complex activities based on labels with fine spatio-temporal granularity at the level of individual person’s actions. We will continue to expand and improve AVA, and are eager to hear feedback from the community to help us guide future directions. Please join the AVA users mailing list to receive dataset updates as well as to send us emails for feedback.

Acknowledgements
The core team behind AVA includes Chunhui Gu, Chen Sun, David Ross, Caroline Pantofaru, Yeqing Li, Sudheendra Vijayanarasimhan, George Toderici, Susanna Ricco, Rahul Sukthankar, Cordelia Schmid, and Jitendra Malik. We thank many Google colleagues and annotators for their dedicated support on this project.

Get visitors to your landing page faster with parallel tracking

As technology enables more assistive experiences, consumer's expectations for seamless web experiences are now higher than ever before. In fact, a one second delay in mobile page load can decrease conversions up to 20%.1 But when someone clicks an ad with URL tracking, this can cause a delay that prevents them from reaching a website for hundreds of milliseconds.2 While this may not sound like much, this lost time can impact campaign performance.

To avoid these delays and create better user experiences, we'll begin rolling out parallel tracking later this year. With parallel tracking, users will head immediately to your landing page after clicking your ad while their browser processes URL tracking requests in the background. We've seen this help users on slower networks reach landing pages up to several seconds faster.3 When more visitors can reach and engage with your site more quickly, this can help reduce wasted ad spend and increase conversions for your business.



Important next steps

Parallel tracking will finish rolling out to all AdWords accounts in early 2018. If you use a third-party provider, you should reach out to them as soon as possible to make sure your clicks will continue to be measured with parallel tracking.

Providers will need to make changes to their platform that could take several months to complete, so it's important to get started early. We're also working closely with key providers to help make the transition as easy as possible for all advertisers.

To learn more about parallel tracking and how to prepare, please visit the AdWords Help Center.



1. "State of Online Retail Performance," Akamai, April 2017
2, 3. Google Internal Data, Japan/India/US. Aggregated anonymized data from a sample of users that have clicked on an AdWords ad with URL tracking, August 2017

Source: Inside AdWords


Get visitors to your landing page faster with parallel tracking

As technology enables more assistive experiences, consumer's expectations for seamless web experiences are now higher than ever before. In fact, a one second delay in mobile page load can decrease conversions up to 20%.1 But when someone clicks an ad with URL tracking, this can cause a delay that prevents them from reaching a website for hundreds of milliseconds.2 While this may not sound like much, this lost time can impact campaign performance.

To avoid these delays and create better user experiences, we'll begin rolling out parallel tracking later this year. With parallel tracking, users will head immediately to your landing page after clicking your ad while their browser processes URL tracking requests in the background. We've seen this help users on slower networks reach landing pages up to several seconds faster.3 When more visitors can reach and engage with your site more quickly, this can help reduce wasted ad spend and increase conversions for your business.



Important next steps

Parallel tracking will finish rolling out to all AdWords accounts in early 2018. If you use a third-party provider, you should reach out to them as soon as possible to make sure your clicks will continue to be measured with parallel tracking.

Providers will need to make changes to their platform that could take several months to complete, so it's important to get started early. We're also working closely with key providers to help make the transition as easy as possible for all advertisers.

To learn more about parallel tracking and how to prepare, please visit the AdWords Help Center.



1. "State of Online Retail Performance," Akamai, April 2017
2, 3. Google Internal Data, Japan/India/US. Aggregated anonymized data from a sample of users that have clicked on an AdWords ad with URL tracking, August 2017

Source: Inside AdWords


KeywordOptimizer: Call For Feature Requests

The KeywordOptimizer open-source app demonstrates the exciting possibilities of using the Targeting Idea Service in the AdWords API to identify new keyword suggestions. The app shows how, in combination with estimated traffic volume, to generate new keyword targeting ideas for AdWords using an evolutionary approach. We think that there is a lot more that the tool could do to demonstrate these and other features so we’re asking for your ideas to help shape the future development of the app.

If you’re interested in using KeywordOptimizer or are already using it, we would like to hear your ideas on how we can improve the app. Please submit your suggestions via the GitHub issues page.

10 things you can do with your new Pixel 2

It’s here! Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL hit shelves today in the U.S. Here’s a few things you can do with your Pixel 2, right out of the box.


1. Transfer your stuff from your old phone in less than 10 minutes—photos, videos, music, contacts, calendar events, apps, messages, and more. Just plug in the the cord and follow the simple instructions on the screen to make the switch. If you need help, there’s a team available 24/7 to talk you through it.


2. Say cheese! Pixel 2 has the highest-rated smartphone camera ever, with a DxOMark Mobile score of 98. Take brilliant photos in any light, and play around with new exposure controls and features like Smartburst, which takes a rapid-fire sequence of shots. Get motion photos with every shot. Pixel 2 also comes with incredible video stabilization, thanks to a combination of both optical and electronic image stabilization.

Pixel 2 Video Stabilization

3. Focus. New portrait mode in the Pixel 2 front and rear cameras gives you crisp, beautiful portraits and selfies with a gorgeous background blur (on both Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL). For more on portrait mode, including some tips for how to take the best portraits, see this post.

portrait mode

4. Get unlimited storage for all your memories. All Pixel 2 users get free unlimited storage in the highest resolution for all of the photos and videos taken on your Pixel with Google Photos.


5. Search what you see with Google Lens in Google Photos. With this preview, just for Pixel 2 users, you can learn about the world around you and get things done. Save phone numbers and email addresses right to your contacts; learn more about landmarks, artwork, books, movies, music albums, and video games; or copy and share URLs from posters.

google lens gif

6. Just squeeze the sides of your phone, say “Ok Google,” or long press the Home button to call on your Google Assistant for help finding answers and getting things done. The Google Assistant understands you, so you don’t have to edit the text messages you dictate. Ask to play a song on Google Play Music, YouTube Music, or Spotify. Or control your phone by saying “turn on night light, "do not disturb” or "change my ringtone" and your Google Assistant will make it happen—no need to dig into settings.


7. Get big entertainment wherever you go. Pixel 2 comes with a razor-sharp display and dual front-facing stereo speakers for crystal-clear sound. It also delivers high quality audio through the new USB-C headphone port and through the updated, hi-fi Bluetooth support. With Fast Pair, you can quickly and easily set up compatible wireless headphones with just a tap.


8. See the important stuff at a glance. With Always-On-Display, you can see the time and notifications without waking up your phone.


9. Name that tune. On your Always-On-Display, the Now Playing feature will show you song and artist info for music playing around you. This works entirely on the device, so no audio is sent to Google.


10. Play well with others. Pixel is made to work seamlessly with your other Google devices. Say “Ok Google, play recommended videos on the TV” and your Assistant helps you keep watching on Chromecast without missing a beat. Or ask your Assistant on Google Home to “find my phone” to hear it ring and find its last location. We’re adding new features all the time, and as the rest of our hardware family hits stores this fall, your Pixel will work with those too.

Introducing the Google Play Security Reward Program



We have long enjoyed a close relationship with the security research community. To recognize the valuable external contributions that help us keep our users safe online, we maintain reward programs for Google-developed websites and apps, for Chrome and Chrome OS, and for the latest version of Android running on Pixel devices. These programs have been a success and helped uncover hundreds of vulnerabilities, while also paying out millions of dollars to participating security researchers and research teams.

Today, we’re introducing the Google Play Security Reward Program to incentivize security research into popular Android apps available on Google Play. Through our collaboration with independent bug bounty platform, HackerOne, we’ll enable security researchers to submit an eligible vulnerability to participating developers, who are listed in the program rules. After the vulnerability is addressed, the eligible researcher submits a report to the Play Security Reward Program to receive a monetary reward from Google Play.

With the ongoing success of our other reward programs, we invite developers and the research community to work together with us on proactively improving the security of some of the most popular Android apps on Google Play.

The program is limited to a select number of developers at this time to get initial feedback. Developers can contact their Google Play partner manager to show interest. All developers will benefit when bugs are discovered because we will scan all apps for them and deliver security recommendations to the developers of any affected apps. For more information, visit the Play Security Reward Program on HackerOne.

Introducing the Google Play Security Reward Program



We have long enjoyed a close relationship with the security research community. To recognize the valuable external contributions that help us keep our users safe online, we maintain reward programs for Google-developed websites and apps, for Chrome and Chrome OS, and for the latest version of Android running on Pixel devices. These programs have been a success and helped uncover hundreds of vulnerabilities, while also paying out millions of dollars to participating security researchers and research teams.

Today, we’re introducing the Google Play Security Reward Program to incentivize security research into popular Android apps available on Google Play. Through our collaboration with independent bug bounty platform, HackerOne, we’ll enable security researchers to submit an eligible vulnerability to participating developers, who are listed in the program rules. After the vulnerability is addressed, the eligible researcher submits a report to the Play Security Reward Program to receive a monetary reward from Google Play.

With the ongoing success of our other reward programs, we invite developers and the research community to work together with us on proactively improving the security of some of the most popular Android apps on Google Play.

The program is limited to a select number of developers at this time to get initial feedback. Developers can contact their Google Play partner manager to show interest. All developers will benefit when bugs are discovered because we will scan all apps for them and deliver security recommendations to the developers of any affected apps. For more information, visit the Play Security Reward Program on HackerOne.