Tag Archives: area 120

CallJoy’s new agent helps small businesses answer calls

If you own or have ever worked in a small business, you know how stressful it can be to juggle day-to-day tasks while also managing the ever-ringing phone line. According to research we conducted, nearly half of calls to local businesses go unanswered. And when calls do get picked up, conversations are often rushed, and follow-up details get lost in a pile of sticky notes. 


This May, my team within Area 120, Google’s workshop for experimental products, launched CallJoy, a virtual phone agent for small business owners. Today, we are greatly expanding our capabilities and releasing a smarter, more intuitive agent that can assist callers by asking a simple question: “How can I help you?” Then, the agent intelligently responds based on the caller’s answer.
CallJoy Call Actions

CallJoy’s Call Actions feature allows small business owners to customize their own virtual agent. 

A more intelligent phone agent 

With the launch of our new agent, owners or managers of local small businesses can easily enter a set of expected questions or phrases and define what action the agent will take when those phrases are used. The more information a small business owner gives to the agent, the smarter and more responsive CallJoy becomes. 

For example, a caller might ask a restaurant’s agent, “Do you have vegetarian options?” If the small business had entered the phrase “vegetarian” into CallJoy and defined a verbal response for the agent, the agent could respond, “Yes! Our menu has vegetarian and vegan-friendly choices. Can I text you the link to our online menu?” 

Since no small business is the same, CallJoy makes it simple to train the agent on how to handle customer inquiries. The agent can not only speak an answer, but also send a link and then continue the conversation or connect to the business’s phone number. Starting today, there are an unlimited number of ways to set up your CallJoy agent.

The entire virtual customer service experience is professional and friendly, without requiring any time from the business owner or staff. Of course, if you want to talk to customers live, you can customize that, too. With this major release, you have even more flexibility based on your small business’s specific needs and how you want to handle calls. You can choose exactly when the agent is involved in the call answering process, such as only answering after hours or after the phone rings six times. CallJoy is there to help, but you’re in control.

Focus on what you do best

If dozens of customers call your business at one time, CallJoy adapts to handle all calls and does so at any time of day. The virtual agent can help multiple patrons book appointments, learn about your business’s hours, route the call to the right staff member and more—all at once. This allows your business to serve a larger number of customers, all while freeing you up to do more valuable tasks.


You’ll probably be curious what the virtual agent did on your behalf during the day, and that’s why CallJoy records and transcribes each conversation and sends you a recap via email every day. Small business owners can easily search and tag transcripts to track the details that matter most. Best of all, these additional insights and features are available at our same flat monthly rate of $39.


With CallJoy, we’re helping small businesses across the U.S. save time while also providing customers with better service through a more intelligent phone experience. Small business owners who are interested in setting up a customized CallJoy phone agent can sign up for a 14-day free trial.

Byteboard adds interviews for web and mobile engineers

We launched Byteboard inside Area 120, Google’s workshop for experimental projects, with a primary goal to fundamentally change tech hiring for the better. Byteboard is a full-service interviewing platform for software engineers, which uses project-based interviews to assess for skills that are actually used on the job, rather than the theoretical concepts tested for in traditional interviews.

Byteboard aims to help companies efficiently, accurately and fairly assess back-end engineering candidates. In the 14 months since our first pilot, Byteboard has interviewed over 2,000 candidates for clients like Lyft, Betterment and Quibi. By using our platform, our customers have seen their onsite-to-offer rates double and have saved hundreds of hours for recruiters and engineers.

In my role at Byteboard, I have had countless conversations with engineering managers across the tech industry about how expensive, time-consuming, and error-prone hiring engineers can be. Trying to hire a specialist--someone who has mastery in a technical subdomain--is even harder. If you ask a front-end engineer what they think about technical interviews, usually their experience is even worse than the average engineer, since traditional technical interviews over-emphasize skills that are often even less relevant for front-end work.

Today, Byteboard is launching interviews for mobile engineering and web development. These new interview types are still modeled after a day in the life of an engineer, but they give experienced Kotlin, Swift or HTML/CSS/JavaScript engineers an opportunity to dive deeper on some of the front-end skills that they’ve honed and accumulated over their careers. Front-end engineers prefer taking the Byteboard interview for the same reason generalists do: It more accurately represents the work they might actually do on the job.

In addition to the core software engineering skills that all Byteboard questions assess for, Byteboard front-end interviews also evaluate for additional domain-specific knowledge, such as a focus on accessibility or internet principles. This gives hiring managers a comprehensive view of a candidate’s software engineering skills, as well as their role-related knowledge.

Byteboard is on a mission to make technical interviews more effective, efficient, and equitable for all. Front-end engineers should not have to memorize theoretical concepts that they will never use on the job. Instead, they should have the opportunity to demonstrate their skills in an authentic engineering environment that is reflective of their day-to-day work. Expanding our assessment methodology to front-end skill sets is another step towards making interviews better for everyone. 

To learn more about how Byteboard can help you improve your hiring processes, get in touch at byteboard.dev for more information.

Byteboard adds interviews for web and mobile engineers

We launched Byteboard inside Area 120, Google’s workshop for experimental projects, with a primary goal to fundamentally change tech hiring for the better. Byteboard is a full-service interviewing platform for software engineers, which uses project-based interviews to assess for skills that are actually used on the job, rather than the theoretical concepts tested for in traditional interviews.

Byteboard aims to help companies efficiently, accurately and fairly assess back-end engineering candidates. In the 14 months since our first pilot, Byteboard has interviewed over 2,000 candidates for clients like Lyft, Betterment and Quibi. By using our platform, our customers have seen their onsite-to-offer rates double and have saved hundreds of hours for recruiters and engineers.

In my role at Byteboard, I have had countless conversations with engineering managers across the tech industry about how expensive, time-consuming, and error-prone hiring engineers can be. Trying to hire a specialist--someone who has mastery in a technical subdomain--is even harder. If you ask a front-end engineer what they think about technical interviews, usually their experience is even worse than the average engineer, since traditional technical interviews over-emphasize skills that are often even less relevant for front-end work.

Today, Byteboard is launching interviews for mobile engineering and web development. These new interview types are still modeled after a day in the life of an engineer, but they give experienced Kotlin, Swift or HTML/CSS/JavaScript engineers an opportunity to dive deeper on some of the front-end skills that they’ve honed and accumulated over their careers. Front-end engineers prefer taking the Byteboard interview for the same reason generalists do: It more accurately represents the work they might actually do on the job.

In addition to the core software engineering skills that all Byteboard questions assess for, Byteboard front-end interviews also evaluate for additional domain-specific knowledge, such as a focus on accessibility or internet principles. This gives hiring managers a comprehensive view of a candidate’s software engineering skills, as well as their role-related knowledge.

Byteboard is on a mission to make technical interviews more effective, efficient, and equitable for all. Front-end engineers should not have to memorize theoretical concepts that they will never use on the job. Instead, they should have the opportunity to demonstrate their skills in an authentic engineering environment that is reflective of their day-to-day work. Expanding our assessment methodology to front-end skill sets is another step towards making interviews better for everyone. 

To learn more about how Byteboard can help you improve your hiring processes, get in touch at byteboard.dev for more information.

Commute better with Pigeon, the crowdsourced transit app

Like many New Yorkers, I take the subway to and from work, which is one of my favorite parts of living here. But that commute can be one of the least enjoyable parts of my day if I run into an unexpected incident or delay. One summer morning, while waiting for a delayed train on an unbearably hot platform, I wondered: What could I be doing with my time in the 15 minutes I’ve been standing here? Why couldn’t I easily alert other riders, so they could avoid the same fate?

My cofounder and I approached Area 120, Google’s lab for experimental projects, with an idea: build a crowdsourced transit app that provides better real-time information for riders, by riders, to give people around the world access to accurate transit data. Pigeon launched in September of 2018. Since then, Pigeon has helped New Yorkers make better transit decisions on hundreds of thousands of trips each month. 

Today, Pigeon is launching in five new U.S. cities: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Commuters in these cities can download Pigeon on iOS or sign up for our Android waitlist, and start commuting better by working together.

More real-time information means better commuting

Notifications and alerts from Pigeon

Pigeon users in each city will have access to information that other transit apps don’t provide, like real-time crowds, unexpected incidents, and more context about delays. Pigeon sends alerts whenever there is important information that riders care about, like power outages and major service changes. Pigeon also sends customized notifications to commuters before they leave their home or office, so that they can plan around delays, reroutes and even the weather.

Crowdsourced reporting in Pigeon

Ride better together with crowdsourced reporting

With Pigeon’s reporting feature, riders can post about delays and other transit happenings with comments and images. These reports are then displayed on a map, along a rider’s route and in a shared activity feed, to provide more context and coverage of transit happenings. Reports include information like delays, train crowdedness, escalator outages, live entertainment and dirty or unsafe conditions. 

Pigeon also makes commuting more fun. Our users commiserate over shared experiences like being packed in a crowded subway, finding surprising joy from dogs tucked in bags and celebrating local entertainers.

We are thankful to the community of riders that power Pigeon, and we seek to help them become even more familiar with their local transit system. So in addition to announcing our expansion to five new U.S. cities, we are also releasing an NYC Subway Insights Report based on data from crowdsourced reports which shares how subway riders feel about the subway lines they frequently ride. We learned which station was reported to be the hottest during the summer months, as well as the lines with the most rush hour delays and most crowds. 

With Pigeon launched in five new cities across the U.S., we hope to improve commuting for even more public transit riders, as well as build local transit communities that work together to improve their daily rides.


Touring Bird lands with Google to plan your perfect trip

Traveling to new places is fun and exciting—but for a lot of people, planning what to do once you’re there is not. It often involves hours of research: finding things to do and see, reading travel guides and blogs, comparing prices and asking friends for recommendations. Even after all that research, there’s always a fear of wasting precious vacation time on disappointing experiences, or missing out on the most important things to do. And travelers who skip the planning process entirely can find themselves paying the price when a popular attraction or activity is sold out or closed.  

Our small team decided to work on improving the research and booking experience for tours and activities within Area 120, Google’s internal incubator for experimental ideas. Area 120 was created to provide Google employees a place to pursue and test their promising ideas full-time, with dedicated support and resources. Through this program, we set out to build a new tool that addresses the need for a centralized destination to plan your next vacation.

Touring Bird helps you explore and compare prices and options across providers and makes it easier to book tours, tickets and activities in top destinations around the world. You can do all this in a single place—saving both research time and money. We also wanted to make travel more fun and memorable by making it easier to discover unique things to do, like how to trace the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes in London, visit Senso-ji temple in Tokyo at night or explore hidden catacombs in New York City. For travelers looking for ideas, Touring Bird presents options by interest (like local eats, photo-worthy spots or kid-friendly activities) and offers curated recommendations from travel writers, locals, and destination experts. 

After an initial test launch in Paris in early 2018, we expanded Touring Bird to cover 20 of the world’s top destinations later that year. We learned a lot from the people using Touring Bird, and we continued tweaking the product based on their feedback. For example, based on the insight that every traveler has unique interests and needs, we introduced a new way to customize and compare options across multiple providers. And earlier this year, we expanded even further to cover 200 destinations. So far, the reaction from users and partners has been overwhelmingly positive.

Today we are announcing that Touring Bird is successfully moving on from the experimental environment of Area 120 into Google, where the team will continue building compelling experiences for travelers and connecting them to tour and activity providers in destinations around the world. That way, the next time you're booking a vacation, planning what to do during your trip is one less thing to worry about. 

Step up your interviewing game with Byteboard

I’ve worked as a software engineer on Google products like Photos and Maps for four years. But if you asked me to interview for a new role today, I doubt most technical interviews would accurately measure my skills. I would need to find time to comb through my college computer science books, practice coding theory problems like implementing linked lists or traversing a graph, and be prepared to showcase this knowledge on a whiteboard. 

According to a survey we conducted of over 2,500 working software engineers, nearly half of the respondents spent more than 15 hours studying for their technical interviews. Unfortunately, many companies still interview engineers in a way that's entirely disjointed from day-to-day engineering work—valuing access to the time and resources required to prepare over actual job-related knowledge and skills.

As a result, the tech interview process is often inefficient for companies, which sink considerable engineering resources into a process that yields very little insight, and frustrating for candidates, who aren't able to express their full skill-set. 

At Byteboard, a project built inside of Area 120 (Google’s workshop for experimental projects), we’ve redesigned the technical interview experience to be more effective, efficient and equitable for all. Our project-based interview assesses for engineering skills that are actually used on the job. The structured, identity-blind evaluation process enables hiring managers to reliably trust our recommendations, so they have to conduct fewer interviews before reaching a confident hiring decision. For candidates, this means they get to work through the design and implementation of a real-world problem in a real-world coding environment on their own time, without the stress of going through high-pressured theoretical tests. 

An effective interview to assess for on-the-job skills

Byteboard creates more effective technical interviews

We built the Byteboard interview by pairing our software engineering skills analysis with extensive academic research on assessment theory and inclusion best practices. Our interview assesses for skills like problem solving, role-related computer science knowledge, code fluency, growth mindset and interpersonal interaction. Byteboard evaluators—software engineers with up to 15+ years of experience—are trained to objectively review each anonymized interview for the presence of 20+ essential software engineering skills, which are converted into a skills profile for each candidate using clear and well-defined rubrics. 

By providing a more complete understanding of a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses across a range of skills, Byteboard enables hiring managers and recruiters to make data-backed hiring decisions. Early tester Betterment saw their onsite-to-offer rates significantly increase by using Byteboard, indicating its effectiveness at identifying strong candidates for the job.

A more efficient interview to save engineers time

Byteboard creates more efficient technical interviews

Byteboard offers an end-to-end service that includes developing, administering and evaluating the interviews, letting companies focus on meeting more potential candidates face-to-face and increasing the number of candidates they can interview. Our clients have replaced up to 100 percent of their pre-onsite interviews with the Byteboard interview, allowing them to redirect time toward recruiting candidates directly at places like conferences and college campuses.

An equitable interview format to reduce bias

Byteboard creates more equitable technical interviews

The Byteboard interview is designed to grant everyone, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, name, background or education, the same opportunity to demonstrate their skills. Traditional technical interviews tend to test for understanding of theoretical concepts, which often require a big investment of time or resources to study up on. This can create anxiety for candidates who may not have either of those to spare as they are looking for a new job. By focusing on engineering skills that are actually used on the job, Byteboard allows candidates to confidently show off their role-related skills in an environment that is less performative and more similar to how they typically work as engineers. 

I felt less anxious while doing the interview and it gave me the most complete view of my strengths and weaknesses than any other interview I've done. a recent candidate from Howard University
An applicant or recruiter using Byteboard

The Byteboard Assessment Development team of educators and software engineers develop challenging questions that are tested and calibrated among engineers across a wide range of demographics. Through Byteboard's anonymization and structured evaluation of the interviews, hiring managers can make decisions with confidence without relying on unconscious biases. 


With Byteboard, our ultimate goal is to make interviewing better for companies and candidates alike. Companies looking to improve their hiring process can get in touch at byteboard.dev.

Create 3D games with friends, no experience required

Let’s say you have an idea for a video game. It could be a first-person action game starring a snail on the (slow) run from the law, or a multiplayer game featuring only pugs. There’s only one problem: You’ve never built a game before. You don’t know how to program.You don’t know any 3D artists. And every tool you find won’t let you collaborate with friends.

What if creating games could be as easy and fun as playing them? What if you could enter a virtual world with your friends and build a game together in real time? Our team within Area 120, Google’s workshop for experimental projects, took on this challenge. Our prototype is called Game Builder, and it is free on Steam for PC and Mac.

Built for gamers

Game Builder animation

Game Builder aims to make building a game feel like playing a game. If you’ve crafted a fort or dug a mine in a game, you already know how to build a 3D level in Game Builder.

Always-on multiplayer

Game Builder animation

Multiple users can build (or play) simultaneously. You can even have friends play the game as you work on it.

No code required

Game Builder animation

Bring your games to life with Game Builder’s card-based visual programming system. Drag and drop cards to “answer” questions, such as, “How do I move?” You can make moving platforms, scoreboards, healing potions, drivable cars and more.

Real-time JavaScript

Game Builder animation

You can build your own cards with Javascript. Game Builder comes with an extensive API that allows you to script almost everything in the game. All the code is live, so just make a change and save it, no compiling required.

Thousands of 3D models

Game Builder animation

From pugs to rocket ships, there are thousands of options available to craft your characters. Find 3D models on Google Poly and use them in your game instantly.

If you’ve ever wanted to build a video game, but didn’t know where to start, check out Game Builder on Steam. (And if you end up making that snail-on-the-run game, we can’t wait to play.)

Redefine reading practice with Rivet

Reading is one of the most important skills students will learn in their lives. After the third grade, students who have mastered reading use it to learn just about everything else. Struggling readers, on the other hand, are unlikely to catch up and four times less likely to graduate from high school. Unfortunately, 64 percent of fourth grade students in the United States perform below the proficient level in reading.

Rivet is a new reading app from Area 120, Google’s workshop for experimental projects, that addresses the most common barriers to effective reading practice through a free, easy-to-use reading experience optimized for kids. Evidence shows that one of the major differences between poor and strong readers is the amount of time spent reading, so we're introducing Rivet to make high-quality reading practice available to all.

Improving access to books

With a rapidly growing digital library of over 2,000 free books, Rivet makes it easy to find interesting reading material at the right level. There are engaging books covering a wide array of topics, from planets in outer space to Harriet Tubman. Every book in our library is carefully reviewed and leveled by content quality experts to ensure young readers are shown appropriate content at the right level of difficulty.

A screenshot of the Rivet app, showing a library collection of books to choose from

A knowledgeable reading buddy

Rivet uses advanced speech technology to provide support on every word and give kids feedback on their reading, so they can practice independently without getting stuck. Here are a few Rivet features you can try out during reading practice:

  • Tap for Help: Stuck on a word? Just tap to hear it pronounced.
  • Say the Word: Kids can practice reading a word and the app will show them exactly which parts of the word were said correctly and which parts they need to work on.
  • Definitions and Translations: Definitions are available for every word, along with translations into more than 25 languages for non-native speakers.

A screenshot showing the Definitions and Translations feature in Rivet, showing the word "start" defined and pronounced on the screen.
  • Follow Along: Rivet can read full-pages aloud on a selection of books, highlighting each word as it’s read so kids can follow along. (Parents have the option to disable this feature.)
  • Real-time Feedback: On Android (and coming soon to iOS), Rivet can provide even more real-time help. Just tap the microphone icon and read the page aloud—the app will follow along and proactively offer support if it detects a reader struggling. At the end of the page, readers can see which words were read correctly, and try again on the words they missed. All speech processing is performed on-device to respect your child’s privacy.
A screenshot depicting the Real-time Feedback feature, where a paragraph is read out loud to the reader.

Motivation and encouragement

It takes hard work and plenty of patience to master reading. Rivet rewards dedication with points and badges, and personalizes the experience with avatars, themes and recommended books based on each reader’s level and interests. Surprises designed to encourage more practice, energizing games and a playful interface keep kids engaged in the reading experience.

A screenshot showing the "rewards" page after three days in a row of reading practice, with a cat in sunglasses and the words, "Yay! You did it! You've read 3 days in Rivet!"

Our goal is to deliver high-quality reading practice to children everywhere, along with peace of mind for the busy parents accompanying them on their reading journey. In the upcoming months, we’ll introduce features to support reading practice in classrooms, add new content for a wider range of reading levels and expand to more countries around the world.

Rivet is now available on Android smartphones, tablets, iPads, iPhones and Chromebooks in eleven countries worldwide. If you know a little reader who could benefit from better reading practice, check us out in the Play Store or App Store today.

Helping small business phones get smart with CallJoy

Think about how many times you’ve called a small business lately. I call local businesses near my home and office all the time—just last weekend, I was on the phone with the nearest exotic pet store to see if they had food in stock for our family's pet lizard.

My team within Area 120, Google’s workshop for experimental projects, conducted testing and found that small businesses receive an average of 13 phone calls every day. If you apply that average to America's 30.2 million small businesses, that would equal roughly 400 million incoming daily calls to local businesses from consumers placing a to-go order, booking an appointment, inquiring about inventory and more. That’s why we built CallJoy, a cloud-based phone agent that enables small business owners to measure, improve and automate customer service.

Meet CallJoy

With CallJoy, small businesses have access to the same customer service options that have historically only been available to larger corporations. If you’re associated with small business using CallJoy, here’s how it works: After a quick setup, you’ll receive a local phone number. CallJoy will immediately begin blocking unwanted spam calls so you receive the calls that matter—the ones from customers. Then, when the phone rings, the automated CallJoy agent answers, greets callers with a custom message and provides basic business information (like hours of operation).

If the customer calling would like to complete a task which can be done online, like place a to-go order or book an appointment, CallJoy’s virtual agent will send the customer an SMS text message containing a URL. Whether the customer speaks with you, talks to an employee, or just interacts directly with the CallJoy agent, the call will be recorded and transcribed for quality purposes. This allows small business owners to tag and search each conversation based on topic. For example, a hair salon owner can search how many times a day callers ask about “men’s haircut pricing” or “wedding hairstyles.” From here, CallJoy compiles your data in an online dashboard and emails you a daily update, which includes metrics like call volume and new versus returning callers.

Untie the phone line, improve customer service, grow sales

High call volume can overwhelm any small business, especially when coupled with peak call times and the ever-increasing monsoon of spam callers. In fact, nearly half of small business calls go unanswered because owners are just too busy or assume the caller is another spammer. When that happens, business owners can experience customer disloyalty, loss of revenue and negative online reviews.

Take for example one of the top Chinese fusion takeout eateries in Austin, Texas. Before joining CallJoy’s beta program, the restaurant staff didn’t have the bandwidth to answer incoming calls while juggling food preparation and in-restaurant diner needs. Since adding CallJoy’s textback feature, the restaurant has decreased hold times and increased productivity by automatically texting callers a URL to place their orders online.

CallJoy helps small business owners offer better customer service, make more informed business decisions and ultimately increase productivity. Starting today, small business owners can sign up for early access to this phone technology by clicking here, and for a flat monthly fee of $39. 

Touring Bird takes flight in 200 destinations worldwide

From booking flights to securing hotel rooms, the online travel industry has made the logistics side of travel easier than ever. But the fun part of taking a trip is experiencing and exploring new places, cultures and people—that's the part travelers remember and talk about. Yet finding exciting things to do in a given location is often much more difficult than finding a cheap flight. There are many sources of information, and not all of them are reliable, which means that hours of research can still come up short.

With Touring Bird, a web-based travel app from Google’sArea 120 (a workshop for experimental projects), you can explore, compare and book over 75,000 tours and activities from top providers. Touring Bird is expanding from the initial 20 destinations launched in September 2018 to 200 total destinations, available on desktop and mobile. Our coverage now spans the world, from Anchorage to Zanzibar.

Everything in one place

When you select a destination city in Touring Bird, you'll see top sights,, suggested tours and activities with prices, options for free guided tours, and recommendations from locals and travel experts.

A screenshot scrolling through the top sights, local tours and activities, and local tips in Touring Bird.

Customizable, one-stop shopping

We offer a “build-your-own package” feature for each destination’s top attractions. For example, if you want to explore Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Família church with a guide, visit the church’s towers and also see Gaudí’s whimsical Park Güell, you can find the tour package that meets those criteria. You’ll find offerings from multiple major providers (such as Expedia, GetYourGuide and Viator) without having to comb through endless tour descriptions on each booking agency’s website to determine what’s included or not.

A screenshot showing the flow of creating a package of tours for Barcelona.

The travel experience you want

We also curate hundreds of activities for every interest and type of traveler, whether you’re first-timers looking for iconic experiences in Zurich, travelers seeking more off-the-beaten-path activities in Athens, or families with kids on holiday in Dubai. All offerings can be further filtered by the type of activity that interests you, such as walking tours, classes or performances.

Quick and easy booking

Once you find a tour, ticket or activity that interests you, you can dig deeper and see what’s included—plus availability, prices, cancellation policies and reviews. Then you can filter by your trip dates and, when you’re ready, click straight to the provider’s website to complete the booking.

A variety of Barcelona tours and activities available in the Touring Bird app.

One-of-a-kind experiences

Local Tips arecurated recommendations for unexpected local experiences provided by destination experts. For those looking for something beyond classic guided tours, Touring Bird offers has got you covered. Watch sumo wrestlers train in Tokyo, camp by the beach with wild kangaroos near Sydney or explore the world’s largest historical toilet collection in Kyiv.

A screenshot of local tips in the Touring Bird app.

After today's update, if you’re planning on traveling somewhere, chances are Touring Bird has it covered. Check it out at www.touringbird.com when you're getting ready to plan your next trip.