Tag Archives: Google in Asia

Building a better internet experience together with Indonesia

One of my favorite snacks is made by Rina Trinawati, a 45 year old entrepreneur from Indonesia who bakes cookies for a living. I like them because they’re not just a treat for the tastebuds. Her business, Tin Tin Chips, employs mothers of children with disabilities. Since Rina learned how to market her cookies online, orders have shot up 75 percent. Rina now employs 25 women and donates 50 percent of her profits to organizations caring for children with disabilities.


Indonesia has the largest and fastest growing internet economy in Southeast Asia. And Indonesians everywhere are getting involved—they’re building the companies that create jobs, provide goods and services, and make life better for everyone. Today, at our annual Google for Indonesia event, we announced the next round of products and partnerships to help us move forward together with Indonesians in the internet economy.


A more accessible internet for Indonesians


Using the internet for the first time can be daunting. We’re making it easier for first-time smartphone users to discover the web with Google Go, an AI-powered app that showcases the latest Search trends as well as Indonesia’s most popular apps and websites. Google Go makes using the internet as easy as watching TV by allowing people to listen to any webpage being read out aloud.


But there’s no point in web pages being read aloud if you don’t understand what’s being said. Less than one percent of the content on the internet is in Bahasa Indonesia, while more than half of all online content is available in English. To help close this gap, we are collaborating with Wikipedia on a new way to make English-only content accessible and useful for Indonesians. Now, our systems will identify relevant Wikipedia articles that are only available in English, translate them into Bahasa Indonesia using Google’s AI powered neural machine translation system, and then surface these translated articles in Search.


Speaking of talking AI, we launched the Google Assistant in Bahasa Indonesia in April. Now, we’re taking our Indonesian-speaking Assistant out of smartphones and putting it into feature phones. WizPhone is the first feature phone made by Indonesians that will have the Google Assistant built in and it will retail at less than $10 (IDR 99,000).


A more useful internet for Indonesians


The Assistant is becoming even more useful—and even more Indonesian—because of our partnerships with Indonesian businesses. For example, you can now ask the Assistant to Book a Ride in Indonesia––no more opening apps and typing in addresses or tell it to give you the news. With News Briefings, Indonesians can now hear the latest news hands-free and on-the-go from five Indonesian media outlets we partnered with.


To help connect those business owners with job seekers, we’re introducing Jobs on Google Search. Starting today, searches for “job vacancies,” will surface job listings in Indonesia, with options to organize them by different criteria like job type and distance.


And to support Indonesians in getting the skills to excel in the new jobs within the internet economy, we announced a new commitment to train a further one million Indonesian small and medium businesses by 2020. This is in addition to the one million that we have already trained since 2015.


A safer internet for Indonesians


We want Indonesians to have access to more information. But we want it to be better information—and that comes from high-quality Indonesian journalism. We’ve already trained 2,000 journalists through the Google News Initiative and we’re training another 3,000 more by next year. As part of the CekFakta.com, Google News Initiative training includes fact-checking and verification best practices, plus how to fight misinformation.


Having better information is great, but using that information responsibly is greater. So that the next generation of Indonesians use the internet responsibly, our philanthropic arm Google.org is making a grant of $875,000 to non-profit organizations Maarif Institute, Peace Generation, RuangGuru and Love Frankie to teach more than 12,000 students to champion tolerance, multiculturalism, and positivity.


These are just a few of the announcements from today that we hope will build a more accessible, useful and safer internet together with Indonesians. We’re excited to keep on working with Indonesia to realize the benefits of the internet for every Indonesian and every Indonesian business.


Fuji Bokujo Dairy Farm: milking the best of the internet

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As part of our series of interviews with Asia-Pacific entrepreneurs who use the internet to connect, create and grow, we chatted with Yuichiro Fujii, President of Fujii Bokujo Inc., a dairy farm based in Hokkaido, Japan. Founded in 1904, Fujii Bokujo runs the entire process of dairy product production—from milking, to breeding, to feed production—and needs a regular supply of seasonal workers to keep the farm going. In 2016, Fujii Bokujo was ranked as the third most popular company in Japan for employee welfare.


Can you tell us a bit about your farm and how your business works?

We have 900 cows at our farm in Furano, Hokkaido. We use the most cutting-edge technology and practices available in the dairy industry, such as fully automated milking machines. And we’re proud to export our homemade cheeses and ice creams worldwide. Business is booming and we’re eager to hire new employees each year, but farming isn’t everyone’s first choice of career. Each year, it gets harder and harder to attract new graduates. Most young people want to move to the cities and there’s a shortage of talent in the countryside.


What’s it like working on the farm?

Working life on the farm is fun, but it takes a lot of energy! Most of our 24 employees are in their twenties. Many come into the business with no experience of farming, but our motto is “We nurture our cows and our people.”  We’re constantly trying to create an environment where our people can grow professionally, and maybe personally too.


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One of the residents of the Fuji Bojuko dairy farm.

What difference has the internet made for your business?

We are the descendants of pioneer dairy farmers in Hokkaido. A man named Edwin Dan, considered to be the father of modern day dairy farming in Hokkaido, coined the phrase, “Kaitakusha tare” (meaning “the pride of the pioneers”). We continue to practice the pioneer spirit today by always trying out new things.


So this year, to deal with our manpower crunch, instead of waiting for responses to wanted ads in newspapers and magazines, we decided to go online. To drive interest and awareness of Fujii Bokujo and the dairy industry, we used YouTube video ads and banner ads on the Google Display Network. In particular, we hoped that young people attending universities near us that had dairy farming courses would see our ads.


We got 260 enquiries for the three positions we had open and attracted 80 participants to a seminar we held to introduce our company. I was surprised by how far the message reached—we got responses from students not just from Hokkaido but also well-known schools in Tokyo and Osaka. In the end, we offered five students jobs, completing our hiring process three months earlier than last year.


What’s next for your business?

I’m looking forward to meeting next year’s graduates! We are in an age where domestic milk production cannot keep up with demand. In line with the spirit of Fujii Bokujo, it’s my life’s dream to develop and train the next generation for the dairy business.


I am also eager to use video not just for our corporate brand and hiring but also our product marketing efforts in the future. We are developing content that will help to entice the young people to the world of dairy.


Finally, with the Olympics coming up in 2020, nothing would make me happier than contributing to athletes winning medals through food. My dream is to have the athletes of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics enjoy the high quality milk we carefully produce at Fujii Bokujo.  


Google News Initiative kicks off Asia-Pacific Innovation Challenge

In Asia-Pacific,  journalists and publishers are increasingly grappling with questions over how quality journalism can thrive in the digital age. From Yangon to Manila, Sydney to New Delhi, they are experimenting with fresh approaches to reporting and new business models.

We’ve been working hand in hand with publishers to understand those challenges, and over the past year we’ve supported Asian newsrooms and publishers through the Google News Initiative (GNI).

To help build a stronger future for journalism in Asia-Pacific, we created the Asia-Pacific GNI Innovation Challenge, which will fund projects that inject new ideas into the news industry. 

How does the challenge work?

We are inviting proposals for projects aimed at increasing revenue from readers, including subscriptions, membership programs, contributions and/or new digital products and services.  A panel of Googlers and other tech industry executives will review the submissions and fund selected projects up to $300,000 and finance up to 70 percent of the total project cost.

The funding will be reviewed against several criteria, including a “sharing component” -  for example by publishing any findings or holding a seminar - so grantees can pass their knowledge on to others in the industry. For more information on eligibility, rules and criteria, sample projects and funding details, head over to our website.

How to apply?

Given the pace of change in the news industry, innovation has never been more important.  We want to make sure that all organizations, large and small, in the Asia-Pacific news ecosystem have the opportunity to suggest new ideas around this critically important topic.

Applications open on November 28, and the deadline to submit is January 9.  If you have any questions, tune into our APAC town hall on Monday, December 11 at 3.00 pm Singapore time. We are ready to help put your ideas into action and look forward to seeing what you submit!

Southeast Asia’s accelerating internet economy

It’s hard to keep up with Southeast Asia’s internet economy because it keeps blowing expectations out of the water. Our 2016 and 2017 e-Conomy SEA reports foresaw a $200 billion internet economy in the region by 2025. The region is taking much less time to get there than earlier expected.  With eight years still left to go, Southeast Asia is already more than a third of the way to the target. And Southeast Asian tech companies have already raised half of the $40-$50 billion in funds we expected them to attract. So the latest e-Conomy Southeast Asia 2018 report by Google and Temasek projects a $240 billion Southeast Asian internet economy by 2025.


The record-breaking pace of the region’s internet economy in 2018 wasn’t a freak occurrence. Southeast Asian countries are on a solid foundation for accelerated digital growth. Here are some promising findings:


  • $72 billion is the value that the region’s internet economy will reach in 2018, more than doubling since 2015. Southeast Asia’s internet sector has generated value surpassing the gross domestic product (GDP) of more than 100 countries in the world in just three years.


  • 350 million internet users are living in the region. Since 2015, more than three million Southeast Asians, a population bigger than Chicago’s or Madrid’s, have gone online for the first time every month.


  • $102 billionis the expected size of Southeast Asia’s e-commerce market in 2025. 2018 was  the year of e-commerce in Southeast Asia, which doubled in value from the previous year. And the top three e-commerce businesses, Lazada, Shopee and Tokopedia, are homegrown players founded in and serving the region.


  • 35 millionSoutheast Asians use ride hailing services every month. Eight million rides are taken every day across 500 cities. Local unicorns like GO-JEK and Grab are spurring rapid growth in new services like food delivery, which made up a $2 billion industry in 2018.


  • $24 billionhas been raised by Southeast Asian tech companies since 2015 and investor confidence is growing. The $9.1 billion raised in the first half of 2018 is on par with the $9.4 billion in the whole of 2017. Investor confidence extends to smaller startups, with investments in non-unicorns growing four times in the first half of 2018 year on year.


  • 1.7 million full-time jobs will be created in the internet economy by 2025 for highly-skilled professionals as well as flexible work opportunities in sectors like ride-hailing.


Keep up with Southeast Asia’s internet economy and learn more in the e-Conomy Southeast Asia 2018 report.


economy SEA infographic

Experimenting with science education on YouTube

As part of our series of interviews with people across Asia-Pacific who use the Internet as a tool to connect, create and grow, we spoke with DoYoun Han, a science teacher at Hyeongyeong  Elementary School in South Korea. In addition to his day job, he runs the YouTube channel 3-Minute Elementary School Science, which shares videos of science lessons and experiments to students between 9 and 13 years old.


Why did you become a teacher?

My parents are farmers and I grew up in the countryside. Unlike the cities, you won’t find private education academies and big libraries here. I was quite playful when I was younger and the lack of interesting educational resources in the countryside didn’t help! I didn’t perform well in examinations, and lost interest in studying. But when I got to the fifth grade, my teacher Lee Byung-gi decided to personally tutor me after school, cheering me up whenever I got bad grades. He inspired me to work harder at school and I decided that I wanted to be just like him—helping students living in the countryside. I’m now living out my dream as a teacher at Hyeongyeong Elementary School in rural South Jeolla province.


Why did you become a YouTube creator?

The average South Korean family spends more than 10 percent of its income on after-school education in private academies for its children. Not every family can afford private education and you won’t find such academies in rural areas anyway. So there’s a gap in educational resources for students in urban and rural areas. I thought the best way to close it was to give teachers in rural schools material to supplement their own teaching. And I decided to share this content through YouTube because it’s popular with young people in Korea.


How do you use YouTube to help your students?

Last year, three other teachers and I started making short science lessons on video. The last thing we wanted to do was to make these seem like extra homework for the kids. So we focus on fun experiments, making abstract concepts more accessible with cartoons or songs. Our videos follow the order of the lessons in the national science curriculum. After reading the lesson in their textbooks, kids can watch our videos to get a better understanding of the subject, and hopefully have some fun too. We’ve shared about 300 videos so far.


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What challenges do you face in keeping this going?

Right now it takes us about six hours to produce a three minute video. We’re teachers, not social influencers and we’re still learning to write scripts, film and edit our videos. We use our own money to purchase the production equipment and laboratory materials. Our limited funds means that we can’t produce all the videos that we want to. That’s why we were so thankful when Google heard about our channel and decided to support us with a $30,000 funding commitment. We’re going to use these resources to create even better educational videos for kids.


What keeps you making these videos?

I feel extremely fulfilled when I get comments on our YouTube channel from students who the videos have helped. One student said that he went from being a mediocre to an ace science student, getting full marks to their test scores. I’m happy when students get better results, but I feel just as satisfied when students leave comments just expressing gratitude for being able to understand and solve a problem because of our YouTube videos. Some of our viewers have even won prizes in national science competitions!


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What are your plans for the future?

I want to keep being a teacher who presents children with the gift of dreams, creating high-quality online content to help children across the world realize their dreams. We’ve grown from a group of four teachers to 29 now, so we are also thinking of improving our videos and making new ones beyond the field of science.


As we’ve gotten a good response from viewers overseas, we also want to start offering English and Chinese subtitles to our lessons to reach more students. Through YouTube, I also want to reach students that face difficult learning environments like refugees. I see our videos becoming an online classroom that they can access anytime, without teachers or books.


PolicyPal: a mobile-first assurance on insurance

Val Yap is the founder and CEO of PolicyPal, a digital insurance broker that lets people buy, understand and organize their insurance on their mobile phones. She’s also a graduate from Start on Android, a program that helps developers perfect their apps with technical support and other perks from Google before launching on Google Play.


Why did you establish PolicyPal?

In 2013, I was working in London when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I left my job, packed my bags, and moved back to Singapore to be with her. Relocating and seeing my strong mother stricken with illness was stressful. The daily grind of dealing with medical appointments and bills made things worse, especially when her insurance claim for her treatment was rejected.


Thankfully, my mother recovered. But we unexpectedly lost my father to a heart attack later that year. We knew he had insurance, but we had no idea what. Even as we were grieving, I had to visit different insurance companies to check. That whole year was a nightmare for my family.


Coping with my father’s passing and my mother’s illness, the last thing I wanted to do was go through insurance policies. But we needed that information and there was no other choice. If we had easier access and better understanding of our coverage, this tough time for our family would have been a bit easier to bear.


We’re sorry to hear about that. How did you go about solving similar problems for others?

Many of us have insurance, but we just pay the premiums and forget about it. When an emergency strikes, we’re scrambling to understand how we’re covered. I started PolicyPal as a digital folder for people to organize and retrieve their policies quickly and painlessly. You just need to take a photo of the insurance document, and PolicyPal stores a digital copy in your mobile phone. It also analyzes your insurance policies and recommends how to fill gaps in your coverage.


As we learned more about the problems faced in the insurance industry, we expanded our product offerings. We set up PALNetwork, an ecosystem which leverages blockchain technology to automate underwriting and claims processing, and empower partners to customize new financial products. We are also the first provider in Singapore to provide insurance for people holding cryptocurrency assets.

policypal-phone

How did the Start on Android program help you in launching your app?

With the support and help from Start on Android, we received valuable feedback ahead of time from the community, helping us improve our app’s performance and user experience. We even managed to acquire and retain some early users through the program, which gave us a fantastic head start when it launched.


What are your plans for the future?

We’re focusing our efforts on serving people in more countries in Asia. I think insurance technology will develop very differently in this region from mature markets like the U.S. or Europe. People in emerging Asia will leapfrog from being unbanked and uninsured to getting insurance through novel solutions, for example, mobile apps instead of agents. We’re looking at expanding beyond Singapore to countries like Indonesia and Thailand.


You’re a female startup founder. What advice do you have for other aspiring women entrepreneurs in tech?

Find a mentor. Working with female mentors has been a game-changer for me. We go through experiences that men don’t and it’s essential that you build friendships with people who can empathize.


My second piece of advice applies to all genders! Don’t enter a sector just because it’s fashionable. Think about what problems you want to solve first and who you’re solving for. Go deep into your mission and make sure you feel it’s something you’re still going to be excited by in 10 years.

ShadowPlay: Using our hands to have some fun with AI

Editor’s note:TensorFlow, our open source machine learning platform, is just that—open to anyone. Companies, nonprofits, researchers and developers have used TensorFlow in some pretty cool ways and at Google, we're always looking to do the same. Here's one of those stories.

Chinese shadow puppetry—which uses silhouette figures and music to tell a story—is an ancient Chinese art form that’s been used by generations to charm communities and pass along cultural history. At Google, we’re always experimenting with how we can connect culture with AI and make it fun, which got us thinking: can AI help put on a shadow puppet show?

So we created ShadowPlay, an interactive installation that celebrates the shadow puppetry art form. The installation, built using TensorFlow and TPUs, uses AI to recognize a person’s hand gestures and then magically transform the shadow figure into digital animations representing the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac and in an interactive show.

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Attendees use their hands to make shadow figures, which transform into animated characters and creates.

We debuted ShadowPlay at the World AI Conference and Google Developers Day in Shanghai in September. To build the experience, we developed a custom machine learning model that was trained on a dataset made up of lots of examples of people’s hand shadows, which could eventually recognize the shadow and match it to the corresponding animal. “In order to bring this project to life, we asked Googlers to help us train the model by making a lot of fun hand gestures. Once we saw the reaction of users seeing their hand shadows morph into characters, it was impossible not to smile!”, says Miguel de Andres-Clavera, Project Lead at Google. To make sure the experience could guess what animal people were making with high accuracy, we trained the model using TPUs, our custom machine learning hardware accelerators.

We had so much fun building ShadowPlay (almost as much fun as practicing our shadow puppets … ), that we’ll be bringing it to more events around the world soon!

Google for Hong Kong: Fostering a smarter digital city

Hong Kong has long been an international hub for finance and business. But now new kinds of entrepreneurs who don’t wear power suits or cut deals in boardrooms have emerged in the city. Thirteen-year-old CEO Hillary Yip struggled with learning Mandarin, so she designed a language learning app for children that’s used in more than 20 countries today. Mama Cheung, a home-maker found a second career as a YouTube creator by sharing her family recipes, attracting millions of views. Edward Li started Twitchy Finger four years ago because of his passion for mobile games. Today, games that he made are played by millions of people across the world.


Hillary, Edward and Mama Cheung are part of a wave of Hong Kong entrepreneurs embracing technological opportunities. In the second annual edition of our Smarter Digital City Whitepaper, 90 percent of business leaders surveyed said they plan to increase investments in digital technology in the next two years. To benefit from digital technology, businesses also need digital talent. However, 70 percent of those leaders said they face difficulties finding the right talent.


At our Google for Hong Kong event today, we announced initiatives for Hong Kong businesses, young people and job-seekers to develop digital talent and connect it with businesses looking to hire them.


First, with new Cantonese language courses in Digital Garage, we’re on track to train 10,000 Hong Kongers with digital skills by the end of 2018. For younger tech talent, we’re expanding the reach of CS First in Hong Kong, a free online curriculum of lesson plans, projects and learning tools for kids just getting into computer science. More than 1,000 students in Hong Kong have already benefited from CS First classes, and we’re continuing to train teachers and volunteers, so that they teach students in communities that lack access to coding education. As we make more CS First learning modules available in Cantonese, we hope that more young Hong Kongers get to experience the fun of coding.
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Some young coders graduating from a CS First class.

To help connect Hong Kongers to jobs in the digital economy, we’re launching a new search experience making it easier for job seekers in Hong Kong to find employment opportunities from popular job listing websites, online classifieds and companies. The new feature is built directly into Google Search to provide a comprehensive listing of jobs across the web, so Hong Kongers can now explore and research thousands of job listings, save promising opportunities and get alerts whenever a new job matching their search comes online.

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The key to Hong Kong’s success has always been its driven and talented people. We’re excited to partner Hong Kongers in building a smarter digital city.

GamelAwan: Reviving traditional tunes with technology

We spoke with Kholis Kurniawan (who goes by the name Awan), a musician from Indonesia. His band GamelAwan creates unique songs by fusing the centuries-old tradition of gamelan, a traditional type of music played in Java, the most populous island in Indonesia, with more contemporary pop tunes. His music videos on YouTube have been watched millions of times, helping him launch a career as a musician while sharing his love for his Javanese culture with the world.


Why did you become a musician?

Music is in my blood. I was born into a family of artists in Lamongan Regency in East Java. My mother used to be in a band. I never received formal musical training, but I learnt how to play my first instrument—the drums—from my brother, Arjuna, when I was 10. He’s also a member of GamelAwan. The two of us having been making music with our friends and playing in bands since we were kids.

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Awan’s brother Arjuna (right) taught him how to play his first musical instrument - the drums.

What got you interested in gamelan?

Javanese people are losing touch with our culture and playing gamelan is my way of helping to preserve our traditions. I have also discovered that a lot of other people share my desire to remain connected to our heritage. When I first started uploading songs on YouTube, I didn’t get many views. But the videos became much more popular when I incorporated gamelan. We hit more than three million YouTube views for our first cover song that used gamelan.

Gamelawan band
Gamelan has been played in Java and Bali since antiquity. In this image, Gamelawan band members are playing the kendang (drum), bonang (kettle gong), and gambang kayu (xylophone).

What challenges did you face in building your career?

I’m from a rural area in Java where a career in music is discouraged. People think that musicians are unable to earn a decent living. Besides dealing with society’s expectations, I also faced the same challenges experienced by other performance artists. One particular show in Bali was a disaster because the sound system stopped working as we were performing. But I learn from these experiences and it motivates me to work even harder for success.


How has YouTube helped you?

YouTube is a perfect place to publish my work because everyone uses it. Two years after we published our first video, YouTube invited me to perform on stage at YouTube FanFest in Jakarta as part of a collaboration with Weird Genius, who plays electronic music.


I am really grateful for that opportunity. FanFest is the most prestigious event a YouTube creator can play at. After our performance there, subscribers to our YouTube channel grew a lot faster. We have received a Silver Button for passing the 100,000 subscriber mark. But what we did not expect was that YouTube could get us noticed offline. Since we performed at FanFest, we have made appearances on national television and gotten requests to play at a lot more events.


YouTube was even my match-maker! I met my future wife after she left a comment in one of my videos.

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Awan and his wife Nur Farida Sani.

What are your plans for the future?

The Indonesian and international creators we met at YouTube FanFest inspired us to work on an album of original music. It is a huge shift from our original approach of just covering other artists’ songs. We want to create unique music for people to enjoy, while staying true to our culture and musical traditions. So we will continue fusing gamelan and more contemporary music genres in our next album. Our mission is to use the universal language of music to help communicate Javanese culture to Indonesians and people across the world.

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Gamelawan playing at YouTube FanFest in Jakarta.

Next Junction: Explore Indian Railways with Google Arts & Culture

Over 151,000 kilometres of track, 7,000 stations, 1.3 million employees and 160 years of history. Indian Railways is one of the most celebrated railway networks in the world. A few months ago, we celebrated the 400th Indian train station connecting to the internet with Google Station, our public Wi-Fi program. Today, we’re bringing Indian Railways’ heritage and sights to the entire world. The most gorgeous architecture, iconic trains and charismatic personalities of Indian Railways can now be found on Google Arts & Culture.


The first rail journey in India, a 14-coach train from Bombay to Thane in 1853 ushered in a new era of an India connected by track, rendering previously remote villages accessible. A century and a half later, just as trains once opened passages across the subcontinent, Google Arts & Culture’s new project  “The Railways — Lifeline of a Nation” is making these passages accessible for the world to experience.


Anyone can now explore India’s railways in unprecedented detail with over 100 exhibitions that bring together more than 3,000 images, 150 videosand 150 iconic locationsacross India. Zoom into ultra-high resolution images made with our Art Camera, like maps of the East Indian Railwaysthat the British used to connect Calcutta with the North West Provinces; get a 360 degree look around the workshops of cardboard rail model enthusiasts; or take a behind the scenes peek at Darjeeling loco shed.

We invite everyone to take an online journey with us to see the breathtaking sights of India’s railways on Google Arts & Culture’sonline platform and the free Google Arts & Culture mobile app on Android and iOS.