Author Archives: Alicia Cormie

10 design details you didn’t know about in our new hardware lineup

“Design is about solving problems,” says Ivy Ross who leads the team that creates how a Google product — including new products announced today at our Made by Google event — looks, feels and acts when you hold it in your hands. When designing this new line of products her team had to solve a whole host of choices — from designing a WiFi router you actually want to put on your shelf to deciding what Google's first-ever watch should look like.

We chatted with Ivy — along with Isabelle Olsson, who leads design for home and wearable products and our team that develops colors, materials and finishes for hardware products, and Claude Zellweger, who leads industrial design for Pixel phones — to get the scoop on 10 design details in our latest hardware products that were made with you in mind.

Colors to calm you

Pixel 7 Pro comes in a fresh new color: Hazel. The nature-inspired greenish hue is soothing, and the warm gold metal finish adds some polish. The Pixel 7 comes in a new energizing color: Lemongrass. “We wanted to create colors that are calming, yet also surprising,” Isabelle says. If being matchy-matchy is the kind of look that calms your mood, you’ll be happy to see matching color combos and finishes across products.

Line up the lenses

Both phones have horizontal camera bars that now blend seamlessly into the frames — and the aluminum in the housing and camera bar is 100% recycled content.[ba4e13]This simplified design reduces the number of parts to make the phone, and just feels better in your hand thanks to its fluid and smooth surfaces. “At the core of it, we wanted to bring more emphasis to the camera,” Claude says.

Silky to the touch

Pixel 7 has a silky smooth feel thanks to our new zirconia-blasted matte finish. Meanwhile, Pixel 7 Pro has a high-polished aluminum finish that takes inspiration from jewelry and watches.

You bezel believe it

The phones feature a bezel that’s even thinner than the Pixel 6 phones. With a thinner bezel — which is the frame on the front of the device that isn’t the screen — you can look at more content that’s relevant to you as opposed to extraneous borders.

A smartwatch dripping with inspiration

Inspired by water droplets, the smooth domed glass face of the Google Pixel Watch keeps it from snagging on your shirts or sleeves. But that design choice was more than just a functional one. “A smartwatch first and foremost is a watch,” says Ivy, who pulled from her background as a jeweler and her love for collecting traditional watches to help design this watch. “The round design represents the ancient shape of time and balances the fact that we fit all of the modern smarts of Google and health and wellness features from Fitbit into the watch.”

Bands that click with any mood

From casual to formal to active, there’s a watch band designed for all your moods and needs. Plus, according to Isabelle, the way the bands click into place to attach is incredibly easy and satisfying.

A color combo to rule them all

To get the perfect mix of colors for the woven fabric watch band accessory — which is made of recycled plastic yarn[4cefda]— the team tested at least 200 different color combos in one week. The result is a band that looks simple and understated from far away, but catches people’s attention up close.

A shelf-worthy design

You’ll want to give some countertop real estate to the new Nest WiFi Pro, which was designed to look good out in the open. “The areas where WiFi routers go — like countertops, side tables and shelves — usually have beautiful collected items from people's lives like a flower vase, a sculpture or a stack of books,” Isabelle says. To make sure the Nest WiFi Pro fits in with people’s treasured objects, the team chose a high-gloss finish — inspired by ceramics and glassware — and subtle hues that match any vibe.

Good things come in small packages

You might notice that the Pixel phone packaging has less plastic — the packaging is now 99% plastic free. The team ditched extraneous materials and created a box the phones fit safely and snugly inside.

Sustainability as the guide

From choosing recycled materials for our packaging and products to coming up with designs that create less waste and are built to last — sustainability is built into so many of the decisions our designers make. Because of these thoughtful choices, we’ve used even more recycled materials in our newest products, like the Nest Wifi Pro which is made of more than 60% recycled materials. And it doesn’t stop here. By 2025, we aim to use recycled or renewable materials for at least 50% of the plastic used across our hardware products. And we’re on track to eliminate plastic from our packaging by that same time. Each of these goals is another challenge our design team is ready to tackle.

10 design details you didn’t know about in our new hardware lineup

“Design is about solving problems,” says Ivy Ross who leads the team that creates how a Google product — including new products announced today at our Made by Google event — looks, feels and acts when you hold it in your hands. When designing this new line of products her team had to solve a whole host of choices — from designing a WiFi router you actually want to put on your shelf to deciding what Google's first-ever watch should look like.

We chatted with Ivy — along with Isabelle Olsson, who leads design for home and wearable products and our team that develops colors, materials and finishes for hardware products, and Claude Zellweger, who leads industrial design for Pixel phones — to get the scoop on 10 design details in our latest hardware products that were made with you in mind.

Colors to calm you

Pixel 7 Pro comes in a fresh new color: Hazel. The nature-inspired greenish hue is soothing, and the warm gold metal finish adds some polish. The Pixel 7 comes in a new energizing color: Lemongrass. “We wanted to create colors that are calming, yet also surprising,” Isabelle says. If being matchy-matchy is the kind of look that calms your mood, you’ll be happy to see matching color combos and finishes across products.

Line up the lenses

Both phones have horizontal camera bars that now blend seamlessly into the frames — and the aluminum in the housing and camera bar is 100% recycled content.[ba4e13]This simplified design reduces the number of parts to make the phone, and just feels better in your hand thanks to its fluid and smooth surfaces. “At the core of it, we wanted to bring more emphasis to the camera,” Claude says.

Silky to the touch

Pixel 7 has a silky smooth feel thanks to our new zirconia-blasted matte finish. Meanwhile, Pixel 7 Pro has a high-polished aluminum finish that takes inspiration from jewelry and watches.

You bezel believe it

The phones feature a bezel that’s even thinner than the Pixel 6 phones. With a thinner bezel — which is the frame on the front of the device that isn’t the screen — you can look at more content that’s relevant to you as opposed to extraneous borders.

A smartwatch dripping with inspiration

Inspired by water droplets, the smooth domed glass face of the Google Pixel Watch keeps it from snagging on your shirts or sleeves. But that design choice was more than just a functional one. “A smartwatch first and foremost is a watch,” says Ivy, who pulled from her background as a jeweler and her love for collecting traditional watches to help design this watch. “The round design represents the ancient shape of time and balances the fact that we fit all of the modern smarts of Google and health and wellness features from Fitbit into the watch.”

Bands that click with any mood

From casual to formal to active, there’s a watch band designed for all your moods and needs. Plus, according to Isabelle, the way the bands click into place to attach is incredibly easy and satisfying.

A color combo to rule them all

To get the perfect mix of colors for the woven fabric watch band accessory — which is made of recycled plastic yarn[4cefda]— the team tested at least 200 different color combos in one week. The result is a band that looks simple and understated from far away, but catches people’s attention up close.

A shelf-worthy design

You’ll want to give some countertop real estate to the new Nest WiFi Pro, which was designed to look good out in the open. “The areas where WiFi routers go — like countertops, side tables and shelves — usually have beautiful collected items from people's lives like a flower vase, a sculpture or a stack of books,” Isabelle says. To make sure the Nest WiFi Pro fits in with people’s treasured objects, the team chose a high-gloss finish — inspired by ceramics and glassware — and subtle hues that match any vibe.

Good things come in small packages

You might notice that the Pixel phone packaging has less plastic — the packaging is now 99% plastic free. The team ditched extraneous materials and created a box the phones fit safely and snugly inside.

Sustainability as the guide

From choosing recycled materials for our packaging and products to coming up with designs that create less waste and are built to last — sustainability is built into so many of the decisions our designers make. Because of these thoughtful choices, we’ve used even more recycled materials in our newest products, like the Nest Wifi Pro which is made of more than 60% recycled materials. And it doesn’t stop here. By 2025, we aim to use recycled or renewable materials for at least 50% of the plastic used across our hardware products. And we’re on track to eliminate plastic from our packaging by that same time. Each of these goals is another challenge our design team is ready to tackle.

When the war in Ukraine started, these Googlers pitched in

The day Russia invaded Ukraine is seared into Agata’s memory. Compelled to act, the Warsaw-based Googler put her name into a Google Doc that listed employees offering their homes to those fleeing Ukraine. The next day, Agata's household grew from six to 11 people. A Ukrainian Googler in the Czech Republic had gotten in touch about lodging for five loved ones who had escaped to Poland but were unable to find housing.

"You're just so happy that you're doing something because the feeling of helplessness is the worst," Agata said. She not only spent the day before her guests arrived prepping the house but also found the time to buy a cake. "We wanted to celebrate; we wanted them to feel welcome."

As Agata's family settled into their new routine with 11 people under their roof, Russia's war in Ukraine continued. Today, more than 7 million refugees have fled Ukraine — the majority of them women, children and the elderly — making this Europe's biggest refugee crisis since World War II. Googlers like Agata have stepped up to help those affected by the war, from hosting refugees and transporting people across the border to providing supplies and starting aid organizations.

Initially, the most immediate need was to help people fleeing the country find a safe place to stay. Googlers were using Docs — like the one Agata put her name into — to connect those in need with those willing to help. Those connections helped Dublin-based Googler Olga get her mother, sister-in-law, nephew and niece out of Ukraine and into safety.

"When the war began, the hardest thing was convincing families to escape. Nobody wants to head into the unknown — they're leaving everything behind and don't know if they will come back," said Olga, who has a brother who had to stay behind in Ukraine. "I needed them to know they had somewhere to go."

Thanks to Mária, who was working for Google while based in Bratislava, Olga's family did have somewhere to go once they’d made a harrowing, days-long drive to the Slovakian border. After other Googlers connected the two women, Mária arranged for her father to pick up Olga's family at the border crossing with a cardboard sign and the promise of a place to sleep. Mária's family hosted them until they were able to reunite with Olga in Dublin.

"I will always be grateful to Mária and her family," said Olga. "It was so incredibly kind — far beyond the kindness you expect from strangers."

The goodwill of strangers has been a running theme throughout the war, as was the case when a group of four Googlers based in Italy joined together with a desire to help. Giovanni, Federica, William and Jacopo funded and coordinated a multi-day mission to drive more than 40 hours to pick up a family of 10 at the Ukrainian border and unite them with their grandmother in Rome.

Federica helped drive from Venice to the refugee center at the Polish-Ukrainian border to meet the group. "These were two mothers leaving their kids with us, and they'd been traveling a week to get to this point. To watch them say goodbye — knowing that they were going back into a warzone and their kids were going away with people they had never met before — was an image that almost goes against nature," she said. "Eventually, using Google Translate, the two mothers told us: 'We are so happy you are bringing our kids to their grandma.' Saying goodbye to these two women was the most difficult part of the whole journey."

"When we were organizing and planning the trip, I was full of stress and fear. But once we started, that fear was replaced by energy," said Giovanni. "When we got back to Rome, and I saw their grandmother opening the doors of this big house a friend had given her for the family to stay in, and the kids rushed to her and embraced — that was a different kind of energy. To see this human connection was so fulfilling. You feel like you did a little to help — you gave back."

These four Googlers weren't the only ones packing cars with people and supplies to help out. Warsaw-based Googler Slawek loaded groups of eight people — and their luggage and pets — into a borrowed station wagon multiple times while leading a convoy of five cars into Ukraine. Together, Slawek and the other volunteer drivers transported refugees stuck at the overcrowded railway stations in Lviv to border crossings.

The initial urge to support those affected by the war spread well beyond Googlers living in Europe. When the war broke out, Mike, a Polish-born Googler based in Michigan, felt pulled to return to his home country. After a month of fundraising, he spent April in Poland near the Ukraine border. There, Mike clocked over 6,000 miles of driving to deliver food, toiletries and other supplies to centers that needed them. And he always made room for sweets to cheer up the kids.

Early in his trip, Mike met a 14-year-old boy who had arrived in Poland a week earlier. The boy, whose dad stayed behind to fight, hadn't heard from his father in days. "I had a soccer ball with me and gave it to him — his eyes absolutely lit up,” Mike said. “It wasn't just food and water that was needed. Giving him something that brought joy and seeing how he reacted will stick with me forever."

Beyond the initial support, some Googlers like Isa have focused on long-term rebuilding efforts. Isa, based in Germany, worked with a small Ukrainian-German team to create Lighthouse Ukraine. Lighthouse Ukraine hosts events that gather dozens of NGOs in one place to provide information and direct support for refugees. The first event was in Isa's hometown of Berlin, and, in May, they took Lighthouse Ukraine global. Over the past few months Lighthouse Ukraine has reached more than 20,000 refugees.

For Ukraine-born and Berlin-based Googler Nina, the work to rebuild is deeply personal. Most of her family members were in the country when the invasion began, and many still are with no way out.

Just days after the invasion, Nina — alongside a group of volunteers — created United for Ukraine (UFU), a nonprofit that helps thousands of displaced people find services and support for things like temporary housing, legal aid and psychological support. Today, the nonprofit has grown to more than 150 volunteers and includes Googlers like Dublin-based, Ukraine-born Ella. By the end of summer, United for Ukraine had provided vital information to more than 200,000 people — helping over 10,000 people into temporary accommodations and supporting over 4,500 people with legal aid.

Phone showing unitedforukraine.org's site with links to information about how to get assistance and help for frequently asked questions.

Resources on unitedforukraine.org, the site that gives people fleeing the Russian invasion access to trusted information and services when they enter a new country.

"We need to think beyond the important work of rebuilding the economy and helping displaced people. There will be a lot of trauma that people will be going through for years into the future," Nina said. “I know this myself. My mom got out, but my stepfather, two brothers and grandparents are still there."

While the effects are long-lasting, so are the stories that provide a beacon of hope and a reminder to act. As Agata learned, something as simple as putting your name in a Doc as someone willing to help can make all the difference.

"I understand we cannot stop the war, but we can do something for one person, for two people, for five people," Agata said. "It matters what you do as an individual. Every one of us is making history with our choices."

Pre-order your Pixel Buds Pro and Pixel 6a today

At I/O we shared our upcoming hardware including Pixel 6a and Pixel Buds Pro. As of today both devices are available for pre-order on the Google Store. Pixel 6a starts at $449 and Pixel Buds Pro are available for $199.

There’s a lot to be excited about with our latest phone and earbuds, so we sat down with two team members who worked on these products to hear about their favorite features, technology and more. Here’s what Soniya Jobanputra and Nidhi Rathi had to say.

Pixel 6a has Google Tensor, but what does that mean?

Soniya: When we set out to make A-series phones, we envisioned the ability to deliver a premium phone at a more affordable price. By including Google Tensor in Pixel 6a we’ve been able to achieve that vision because we now have the same brain powering our full generation of Pixel 6 phones.

Pixel 6a comes in three colors: Chalk, Sage and Charcoal

A great example of this is also one of my favorite features: Live Translate. My family and I were on a vacation recently in French Polynesia, and our French is a bit…rusty. Reception wasn’t always reliable in some of the rural areas. With Live Translate on Pixel 6a, we were able to break down the language barrier and make the most of our vacation — and since all the processing happens on-device, cell reception was a non-issue. What a mind blowing experience!

What exactly is Active Noise Cancellation and how does it work on the Pixel Buds Pro?

Nidhi: Active Noise Cancellation works by creating an additional opposite sound to cancel out the noise around you. The faster your earbuds can hear outside sound and calculate the inverse sound, the better the noise cancellation becomes. Our in-house team of experts used custom speakers and a custom 6-core audio chip running Google-developed algorithms to speed up that process. It’s been incredible to see how quiet your space becomes and how you can simply immerse yourself in your music.

A visual representation of how Active Noise Cancellation works

Once we had those smarts down, we needed to make sure we created the perfect seal. Everyone's ears are different, so it’s not always possible for the eartips to give a perfect snug seal and sound leaking in from the outside affects the listening experience. With Silent Seal™ — which adapts to your unique ear shape — and the multiple eartip sizes that come with the Pixel Buds Pro, we’re able to ensure that unwanted sound stays out.

So whether you’re trying to listen to music, catch up on a podcast or place a call, you’ll get a premium experience with Pixel Buds Pro. Sometimes that experience is so good I don’t even realize my partner is trying to get my attention!

So what about those times when I want to hear what’s going on around me?

Nidhi: We know there are times when you want to stay aware of your surroundings — like when you’re crossing the street. That’s where Transparency mode comes in handy. Using the same low latency engine as our Active Noise Cancellation, we quickly process and naturally pass through all the sounds that the earbuds hear from your environment. It will even help you avoid that plugged ear feeling so you can almost forget your buds are even in!

Pixel Buds Pro user using the device in a busy area

What’s your favorite experience on Pixel 6a? We know, it’s hard to pick only one!

Soniya: My favorite feature is Magic Eraser. I love it for both its practical and creative uses. It’s rare to find a beach with no people on it, but thanks to Magic Eraser all my beach vacation photos look like I had them to myself. And I use it to make quirky, memorable photos — like one photo where my kids were sitting on a swing, but I was able to make the swing disappear so it looks like they’re flying. 😂

Pixel has always been known for its excellence in computational photography and Pixel 6a takes full advantage of the Image Signal Processor we share with Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, all thanks to Google Tensor. Pixel 6a shares the same post processing algorithms as our flagship phones allowing it to support incredible camera experiences like Magic Eraser and Real Tone.

Pixel 6a user with a Sage Pixel 6a device

Anything else you’d like to share before we go pre-order Pixel 6a and Pixel Buds Pro?

Soniya: We know protection is really important. I’m proud that Pixel 6a shares the same security architecture as our flagship phones, including the Titan M2 and multiple layers of hardware protection. And thanks to our common hardware platform, Pixel 6a will also receive five years of security updates from when the device first becomes available on GoogleStore.com, just like Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.

Nidhi: I love the Pixel Buds Pro case – it's so smooth, the texture feels like a pebble in my hand. The way it clicks closed is super satisfying, and it's small enough to fit in the pocket of my skinny jeans!

I’m also looking forward to Bluetooth multipoint and our audio switching technology. It automatically switches between your connected Bluetooth-enabled devices like phones, laptops, tablets and TVs - much easier than navigating Bluetooth menus.

Visit the Google Store today to pre-order Pixel 6a and Pixel Buds Pro. Both devices will be on shelves on July 28 across 13 launch countries, and with select retailers in India.

Source: The Keyword


Take a bite out of these scrappy recipes from Google chefs

There’s been an uptick in home-cooked meals in my life over the past couple of years. (Quarantine cooking, anyone?) As my cooking increased, so did the food scraps. And while using my trusty compost bin has kept most of my unused food from heading to the landfill, I’ve made it a goal to get more scrappy with my cooking to cut back on food waste.

Finding creative ways to reduce food waste is something that teams at Google have been thinking about for years — especially with its recent pledges to cut food waste in half for each Googler and send zero food waste to the landfill by 2025. If they can figure out how to work with suppliers, chefs and Googlers to reduce food waste across offices in 170 cities — surely they could help me do the same in my kitchen. So for Stop Food Waste Day, I chatted with the chef behind Google’s food program, Michael Kann, to hear what Google is doing to cut back on food waste and learn tricks the rest of us can adopt at home — including scrappy recipes straight from Google’s kitchens!

Before you joined Google as the Global Culinary Strategy & Development Lead, your career spanned everything from working as a chef and training chefs to feeding entire student bodies at universities and airline passengers at cruising altitude. How have you thought about food waste in all these roles?

Food waste is a top focus for chefs — whether it’s because of the cost of goods or the environmental impact — and it’s something we take personally. There are techniques that culinary professionals use to reduce food waste no matter how many people they’re cooking for — everything from using as much of the product as possible during prep to coming up with inventive recipes that make the most of ingredients.

At Google, my focus is on infusing these strategies across our cafes and suppliers. My team and I also look at how technology — like Leanpath which helps chefs track what food is going to waste — can help our cafes reduce food waste.

For the home chefs, what tricks and tips can minimize our personal food waste?

Careful planning, prep and organization are the most important steps in reducing waste at home.

Plan out what you are making for the week so you buy only the ingredients you need, and leave days open for leftovers. When it comes to prepping the food, consider how you can do so in a way that maximizes how much of the piece of produce you use. For example, people often cut the entire top off a tomato instead of coring it. If you core it first, you can use the slices for dishes like sandwiches, and the rounded ends can be diced and made into something like salsa.

Get organized with how you store leftovers and new groceries. The first-in, first-out (FIFO) organization system used in most professional kitchens works great at home. First, label or mentally keep track of leftovers and find the expiration date on groceries. Then keep the items that expire first in front, so you’re more likely to grab them and use them.

Now for the tasty part, what are your favorite recipes that feature commonly scrapped foods as ingredients?

Stocks, stocks, and more stocks. Making vegetable stock is a great use of what might otherwise be wasted — like carrots nubs or celery ends. But never use the skins of carrots or onions — it will make your stock bitter.

Broccoli florets are a highly desired vegetable — when I worked at a university it was the most eaten vegetable. But it’s important to plan the menu for the rest of the plant that’s often forgotten: the broccoli stalk. A broccoli soup is a go-to standard, but I also enjoy a great broccoli slaw. This Broccoli Stalk Salad recipe — from Dana Gunders, a national expert and strategic advisor for food waste reduction and author of Waste Free Kitchen Handbook — makes a tasty slaw simply from shredding broccoli stems and carrots. You can also check out her [email protected] for a kitchen demo and more tips.

On the more creative side, you can pickle things you'd typically toss — like cantaloupe rinds. Just cut them into strips, pickle them, and add them as a fun accouterment to any meal.

Vegetable Stock


Makes 1 gallon

Uses up: Leek tops, celery ends, herb stems, onion bits, ends of zucchini or summer squash

Using vegetable trims in stock is a great way to capture every last bit of goodness from the food you’ve brought into your home. With that said, some things make a stock bitter, sulfuric or just down right bad. So while I recommend using the trim of vegetables, it’s not the same as just throwing everything in the pot.


Key things to think about

  • You can freeze your trimmings to build up enough for a batch of stock. Freezing makes the texture mushy, but traps the nutrients which is what you really want.
  • Avoid peels, especially onions and carrots. The peel is a protective barrier for the plant and is often bitter. Adding these to your stock will intensify the bitterness.
  • Be careful with cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, etc.). Adding some may give a flavor you desire, but too many can be overwhelming. Note that the longer these items cook, the more sulfur taste and smell. This is why boiled cabbage smells so bad the longer you cook it, so brief is key here.
  • If an item is not viable to be eaten, don’t add it to your stock. For example, if an onion has a rotten side, cut out the rot and use the good parts. Watch your refrigerator and use the items before they turn.
  • Wash the dirt off of everything before adding to the pot. We want flavor, not grit.
  • The broth will last 5-7 days refrigerated or can be frozen.

Ingredients

3-4 pounds of mixed vegetables using the guidelines above

1 medium onion

2 carrots (peeled)

2 ribs of celery

3 bay leaves

5 peppercorn (more or less depending on your preference)

Herb stems

1 gallon cold water


Preparation

  • Put everything in a pot
  • Start from cold, then bring to a simmer (to remain at or just below the boiling point, usually forming tiny bubbles with a low, murmuring sound)
  • Simmer for 45 minutes
  • Strain through a sieve
  • Chill strained broth

Broccoli Stalk Salad

Makes 5 servings

Uses up: Broccoli stalks, avocados, carrots

For many of us, the stalks are the evil half of broccoli. We toss them away in favor of their soft-headed florets. But this salad depends on the stalks for extra crunch, so save them! Adding in creamy avocados and carrots makes the dish creamy and sweet. Make a chopped salad or grate all but the avocado for more of a slaw effect.


Ingredients

For the dressing

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons honey

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Pepper to taste

For the salad

3 or 4 large broccoli stalks (not the florets!), peeled and cut into thin medallions

½ to 1 avocado, cut into 1/8-inch slices

1 carrot, peeled into long, thin strips

1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced 

1 tablespoon fresh basil or cilantro as garnish (optional)


Preparation

  • In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper
  • In a medium bowl, combine salad ingredients
  • Pour the dressing over the vegetables
  • Let sit for 30 minutes before eating, allowing the broccoli to soften
  • Serve at room temperature with a few extra leaves of basil or cilantro scattered on top

Quick Pickled Cantaloupe Rinds

Makes 3 quarts

Uses up: Cantaloupe rinds

Pickling is an age-old process that helps make harder to eat items more consumable. Melon rinds offer a terrific texture when pickled and help make something alluring out of what would otherwise be tossed into the compost.


Key things to think about

  • Wash the melon before trimming.
  • Do not use any part of the rind that has soft spots.
  • Add dried peppers to spice it up, and play with the spices to find the balance you prefer.
  • Use quart mason jars, while this will not be truly “canned” there will be temperature states that need robust strength.
  • Use the wide mouth jars for ease of filling and emptying.
  • The rinds will last for 2-3 weeks.

Ingredients

The rind from 1 small cantaloupe, thinly sliced into 1-inch strips that fit vertically into a mason jar

For the pickling liquid

2 cups white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)

2 cups water

2 cups sugar

1 thumb ginger, sliced thin

5 each black peppercorns

1 pinch red pepper flakes (more or less based on preference)

5-6 each allspice (whole)


Preparation

  • Tightly pack cantaloupe strips into mason jars
  • Bring pickling liquid to a boil, reduce to a simmer until sugar has dissolved
  • Pour directly into jars with cantaloupe rinds, be sure that the mason jars are at room temperature or even slightly warm (if they are cold they may crack)
  • Tightly cover with lids and allow to cool on the counter for 1 hour
  • Place in refrigerator

Let’s get personal: Adaptive learning tech and education

Twelve years ago, Shantanu Sinha left his job to join his long-time friend Sal Khan’s new venture. At the time, Sal was spending his days making educational YouTube videos. It was an unusual career choice for both of them. But they saw what was possible when students had more agency over their learning and how technology could play a role. Together they started the online education platform Khan Academy, and Shantanu worked there for five years.

Today, Shantanu is the head of Google for Education. His team works to improve teaching and learning with technology, and one promising area is their work with adaptive learning technology. This emerging, AI-driven technology supports tailored learning experiences for students and helps amplify teacher instruction.

To get a crash course on adaptive learning technology and what it means for students and teachers, we talked to Shantanu.

What exactly is adaptive learning technology?

The concept of adaptive learning has been around for decades. It refers to a type of learning where students are given customized resources and activities to address their unique learning needs. For example, if a student struggles with adding fractions, a teacher might offer 1:1 tutoring or additional practice problems. You can see the concept of adaptive learning play out in gaming. When I was a kid I remember playing Carmen Sandiego and noticing how the system was tailored to me and changed whenever I got something wrong.

What’s new is applying recent AI advances to this concept, which opens up a whole new set of possibilities to transform the future of school into a personal learning experience.

Can you share an example of what this might look like?

Imagine you’re a student stuck on a math problem. With 25 other students in your class, you can't always get immediate help, leaving you frustrated and diminishing your confidence to complete future problems. Now imagine a different scenario. You’re stuck on a problem, but instead of growing frustrated, you receive a helpful hint or video that gives you exactly what you need to unblock you. You realize what you need to do differently, complete the math problem correctly and feel more confident in your ability to learn.

Early attempts at adaptive learning worked only for very specific content and curricula. With recent AI advances in language models and video understanding, we can now apply adaptive learning technology to almost any type of class assignment or lesson at an unprecedented scale. When students receive individualized, in-the-moment support, the results can be magical.

Algebra video tutorial helps students stuck on a homework problem

Tell us about the magic.

We recently talked to an educator who is testing out a new adaptive learning feature that we’re developing called practice sets in Google Classroom. The feature allows teachers to create interactive assignments and provides students with real-time feedback. He said the instant feedback that kids received was like having a teaching assistant in the classroom at all times. The technology helped give students 1:1 attention and validation — so they knew right away whether they got a problem correct or incorrect — and drove students’ intrinsic motivation and engagement through the roof.

I saw a similar phenomenon back when I was part of Khan Academy. Over time, students not only became more proficient with subject matter content, but also in their ability to learn new material. They learned how to learn.

How does adaptive learning technology help teachers?

Adaptive learning technology saves teachers time and provides data to help them understand students’ learning processes and patterns. For example, with practice sets, teachers can quickly see a student’s attempts at a given problem, so they know where a student got stuck and can identify areas for improvement. Since assignments are auto-graded, teachers can devote more time to making sure that each student gets the instruction and practice they need to succeed.

So is the future of education more personal?

Learning is inherently personal. Education should feel personal too, but there are time and resource constraints. As we build toward a more personal future for education, adaptive learning technology can help us get there faster. Our goal is to power the pursuit of personal potential — for both teachers and students — in and out of the classroom.

Over these past two years, technology has influenced where people can learn, but has it changed the way people learn?

When I look back to the start of my career and where the world is now, it’s clear that having immediate access to information has fundamentally transformed how, when and where we learn. Today, learning is a muscle we flex easily and often. At Google, we see this play out each day: 85% of U.S. YouTube viewers surveyed say they learn or improve their skills on the platform1 and more than a billion people turn to Search each day to discover something new.

As we think about the evolution of learning, what role can Google play?

We aim to be a learning company — for school, for work and for life. Last year, we launched a site all about our ongoing commitment to help everyone in the world learn anything in the world. Learning is personal. I’m excited to continue working with our partners to build toward a more personal future of education. When we apply the right technology to the process of teaching and learning, exciting things start to happen.

Give it up for the woman who helps Googlers give back

Over the past month, Googlers around the world have virtually volunteered in their communities — from mentoring students to reviewing resumes for job seekers. It’s all a part of GoogleServe, our month-long campaign that encourages Googlers to lend their time and expertise to others. GoogleServe is just one of many opportunities employees have to give back, and one of the projects that Megan Colla Wheeler is responsible for running. 

As the lead for Google.org’s global employee giving and volunteering campaigns, Megan’s role is to create and run programs like GoogleServe and connect the nearly 150,000 Googlers around the world to them. Ultimately, her job is to help Googlers dedicate their time, money or expertise to their communities. How’s that for paying it forward?

With more than ten years of experience at Google, we wanted to hear more about how she ended up in this job, her advice to others and all the ways volunteering at Google has changed — particularly this past year. 


How do you explain your job to friends?

My goal is to create meaningful ways for Googlers to contribute to their communities — by offering their time, expertise or money — and help connect them to those opportunities. 


When did you realize you were interested in philanthropy and volunteering?

I was a Kinesiology major in college. Toward the end of my sophomore year, I took a course on social justice and it struck a chord in me. Though I loved sports, I realized I wanted my career to be about something bigger, something meaningful. I wanted to lend my skills for good. So even though I graduated with a kinesiology major, I focused my job search on the nonprofit sector and got a job working for a nonprofit legal organization.


How did you go from there to leading volunteer programs for Google.org?

I never knew that the job I have now was even possible. I left my nonprofit job to become a recruiting coordinator at Google. My plan was to do it for a year, diversify my skills, then go back to the nonprofit world. 

I remember going to my first GoogleServe event. We helped paint and organize a senior citizen community center — all during the workday! It blew me away that Google placed such an importance on volunteering. Coming from the nonprofit world, it felt meaningful seeing a company that cares deeply about these things and encourages employees to get involved. So I stayed at Google and kept finding ways to work on these programs. 


Fast forward 10 years and you’re one of the masterminds behind these events. How has employee volunteering and giving at Google changed over the years?

So many of the things that Google has created, like Gmail, came out of grassroots ideas that then grew as the company did. The same is true of our work to help Googlers get involved in their communities. 


Take GoogleServe for example. In 2008, a Googler came up with the idea to create a company day of service. Over a decade later that campaign has gone from a day-long event to a month of service that encourages over 25,000 employees to volunteer in over 90 offices around the world. And it all started with one Googler saying, "This would be a cool idea." Along the way, more Googlers have come up with ideas to get involved in the communities where we live and work through giving and volunteering. Although the programs have grown and evolved over the years, we’ve maintained the sentiment that inspired those campaigns in the first place.


We’ve also been focused on connecting Googlers to opportunities that use their distinct skills, like coding or data analysis. For example, a team of Googlers - including software engineers, program managers, and UX designers - are currently working with the City of Detroit to help build a mobile-friendly search tool to help people find affordable housing. 


How has it changed in the past year?

At the core, these programs are about giving back, but they’re also culturally iconic moments at Google. They’re a chance for teams to connect and do something together that’s more than just your average team-building activity. You’re building a shared experience and meeting people from completely different roles and departments. They’re also a chance for teams to learn and grow from people outside of Google and to bring that perspective back to their job. 


Over the past year, people have felt generally disconnected. So even though our volunteering has become virtual, it’s still a chance to interact and contribute. Virtual or not, it really does create a positive work culture. 


What advice would you give to people who have a day job in one area and a passion in another?

Be willing to work hard and get your core job done and carve out time to keep doing what you’re passionate about. When you are working on projects that you love, it keeps you engaged in a really special way. And you never know when those passion projects will intersect with your core work, or when they’ll turn into something bigger. 


A marine biologist uses Maps to explore under the sea

Just under the water lies one of the biggest mysteries of the Great Barrier Reef: blue holes. These underwater sinkholes give researchers a rare look at ocean life and how we can protect it. Until a few years ago, only two blue holes were documented in the entirety of the Great Barrier Reef — they are hard to find and even harder to get to. 

With the help of Google Maps, marine biologist Johnny Gaskell and a team of researchers are finding previously unknown blue holes. In 2017, after witnessing Cyclone Debbie destroy many of the reefs in its path, he set out to find more blue holes. Home to hundreds of species of coral and serving as a protective waters for larger marine life, these formations give scientists a view of history buried in undisturbed sediment layers and clues about  how to better protect coral reefs. 

Using Google Maps’ satellite view, Johnny followed the cyclone’s path to pinpoint areas along the reef that might have been spared from damage. That’s when he spotted perfect circles along the reef, indicating a potential blue hole. The formation he identified was south of the Whitsundays in the Hard Line Reefs, a difficult-to-reach area of the Great Barrier Reef that’s dangerous to navigate. Despite this, Johnny and a team of divers headed out into the unknown, unsure of what — if anything — awaited them.

There’s still so many spots out in the Great Barrier Reef that are unexplored. Johnny Gaskell
Marine Biologist

With the satellite view of Google Maps on their phones, they navigated their boats through narrow channels in unsurveyed waters until the blue dot on their map was directly over the blue hole. Johnny dove in and found healthy coral formations that have sat undisturbed, possibly for centuries. Along the edges were delicate birdsnest corals, vibrant giant clams and huge branching staghorn corals. In the stillness of the blue hole’s center, there were green sea turtles, giant trevally and sharks that all called the dark, cool water home. 

With the help of Google Maps, a discovery that would have taken years of underwater exploration on the seafloor is now allowing researchers to expand our understanding of the world’s largest ecosystem. Today, Johnny is still working to build a snapshot of coral reef conditions. Working with Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Reef Census project, they are using geotagged images to give everyone — from scientists to students — a better idea of what’s going in depths of the water whether they dive in or not. 

In 2021 the Great Reef Census is expanding to reach more reefs, collect more data, and broaden its research goals. To join the efforts, sign up as a Citizen or contribute directly via the project’s fundraising page

When it comes to mental health, what are we searching for?

You know that exhaustion you’re feeling — the one that no amount of espresso shots or power naps can remedy? Well, it turns out you’re not alone. 

Last month in the U.S. we saw spikes in fatigue-related Google searches, and the question “why do I feel bad?” reached a record high. There’s a collective feeling of exhaustion, and we’re all looking for ways to cope with it. Over the past year, we’ve seen an increase in searches related to meditation, virtual therapy, walking and digital detoxes

Since this week marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S., we chatted with two of Google’s experts on the topic: Dr. David Feinberg, a psychiatrist by training and head of Google Health, and Dr. Jessica DiVento, a licensed clinical psychologist and the Chief Mental Health Advisor for YouTube. David and Jessica talk about why we’re feeling this way and what we can do about it. 


What’s going on with our collective wellbeing at this moment in time? 

Jessica: Our body’s threat detection system is working in overdrive. We’re constantly making sense of what’s happening so we know what’s causing us stress and can react to it. People don’t realize how much mental energy that takes. Even though you might not be doing much physically, it makes sense to feel fatigued. 

In the U.S., more people are getting vaccinated and guidelines are changing. Adjusting to this new routine takes a lot of cognitive processing. 

David:It's a hard transition. Our bodies are good at achieving homeostasis. I’ve become comfortable working from home, eating outside and socializing within my pod — these are abnormal things that I’ve incorporated as normal. In parts of the world, you’re telling me to go back to my old ways. Things that used to require minimal thinking — like meeting a friend for dinner — now require so much processing. 


How do you expect people’s emotions to change over the coming months? 

David:Fear is when you open the door and a bear is there. Anxiety is when there’s no bear and you don’t know why you’re feeling that way. We’ve been in a constant state of both with the pandemic. Already, I’ve felt a bit of these heavy feelings lift. When I got my first shot of the vaccine at CVS I felt some of the anxiety and fear I was carrying release — it was almost a spiritual experience. 

This is a dramatic life experience. It will be part of our narrative and change how we respond to things. When a vase falls and it breaks, you glue it back together. When it falls again it usually breaks in the same spot. When there are triggers — like seeing spikes in India — it brings back emotions from this collective trauma. 

Jessica:As a global society, there’s a long way to go. Some of us going through the reconstruction phase will ask, “Why am I not feeling better yet?” Transitioning out of this will take time. 


What have you both done to maintain your own mental health?

Jessica:We know all the things to do to minimize stress and anxiety: eat well, exercise, sleep and so on. We also know what doesn’t help. For me, that’s the overconsumption of technology. Digital wellbeing features, like Pixel’s Flip to Shhh and app timers, help me stop scrolling so I can be more present.

David:I’ve focused on my sleep. Dreams are a way to consolidate new information. I’ve measured my sleep with my Fitbit smartwatch and now with Sleep Sensing on my new Nest Hub, and have learned that eating or working out late at night negatively affects my sleep. So I’ve made adjustments.


As more people search for ways to cope, what are Google and YouTube doing to help?

David:Part of coping with anxiety is researching and taking action on the things you can control.  I love seeing Google connect people to actionable information through things like our mental health self-assessments, information on vaccination and testing locations, and authoritative data about things like symptoms and guidelines to stay safe.  

Jessica:The rise in searches for mental health content shows that it’s becoming okay to say that you’re not okay. The more conversations we spark and the more places we share content about mental health, the less stigma there will be. At YouTube, we work closely with experts in the mental health space to make sure there are credible and engaging videos out there. When someone searches specifically for anxiety or depression resources, we’ll show information about symptoms, treatment resources and self-assessments. And for searches that may indicate someone in crisis, we’re committed to connecting them with free 24/7 crisis support resources. Also, Fitbit recently teamed up with Deepak Chopra to create an exclusive wellness collection for its Premium members, making it easier for them to create a mindfulness practice. Things like that help make sure anyone can take care of their mental health and wellbeing. I hope that lives on past this moment. 


What questions do you hope the world is searching for in the next six months?  

Jessica: I think we’ll see people searching for ways they can help others — looking at careers in counseling and epidemiology — and how they can keep leaning into wellbeing. 

David:I hope people are searching “Am I in love?” and “Why do I feel great?”