Author Archives: Molly

A closer look at the new Nest Hub’s design details

For the Nest Industrial Design team, details matter. Working on the new Nest Hub was no exception. "When we approached the design of the new Nest Hub, we wanted to give the product a lighter, more effortless aesthetic,” says team lead Katie Morgenroth. “We wanted it to feel evolved and refined, not reinvented.” Styling alone shouldn’t be the reason to replace a product, she says. “We want to make sure whether you have one Nest product or many, that they all compliment each other in your space.”

Because of this considered approach, you might not immediately notice some of the more subtle updates. We took some time to talk to Katie, as well as Industrial Design lead Jason Pi and Color and Material designer Vicki Chuang, about some of the new additions worth a second glance — or even a third, or a fourth, or a … you get the idea.

The new, cool color. The team introduced the new Mist color because it’s in the cool family, and compliments nature. It’s soothing, and almost looks like a neutral. Vicki led the color and material design, and says that atmospheric colors like Mist help express “soft feelings.” “Color enhances well-being. Mist is inspired by the sky, it compliments nature,” she says. “We started with a range of blues from light pastel to saturated blue, and the soft muted blue felt the most soothing and relaxing — a good fit for the home.”


Don’t forget the feet. Peek underneath the Nest Hub to see the silicone feet. “We try to have a little fun with color there,” Katie says. “We were inspired by the color you see when you cut into a fruit like a guava or a watermelon — it makes you smile.”


The inspiration for edgeless. Our idea for the edgeless display was the look of a piece of artwork or picture frame with a white border. The new Nest Hub has a lighter, more effortless feel, as Katie describes it. “All you see from the front is the glass. It makes the display almost feel like it’s floating.” 


Jason also adds that the general construction was an upgrade. "We’re very proud of the matte finish and silky feel of the display enclosure, which is also more sustainable even though it has a premium feel to it.” In fact, the new Nest Hub was designed with 54% of its plastic part weight made with recycled material.

A new knit. The new Nest Hub uses the same sustainable yarn recycled from PET bottles that the Minis use, just slightly modified. We used a recycled monofilament yarn, which gives the device a structure that’s ideal for sound quality. “The fabric was reengineered to be not only sustainable but also optimized for great acoustic transmission,” Vicki says.


And look a little closer…and you’ll see the team color matched the device down to the yarn level, so there’s a subtle blending effect in the overall look of the speaker. “That effect is called ‘melange’ and it’s created when there are two colors of yarn knit together to create a variation in the tone,” Katie explains. 


A hard switch. We first introduced the privacy switch with the Home Mini and it’s been a part of every Nest device since, including the new Nest Hub. The hard switch completely disables microphones, and the new Nest Hub also has added LED lights to the front of the display that indicate when the switch is on or off. This was important to the team to keep consistent across all Nest devices, because privacy isn’t something they wanted to overcomplicate. “From the beginning we always wanted to continue the precedence we set with the physical privacy button and include it on Nest Hub,” Jason says. “There is something definitive about having it be a physical switch. I also like the color pop that's visible once it’s on mute — it’s a nice, clear indicator.” Plus, it’s one more place designers get to have a little fun.

Sleeping on the job: How we built the new Nest Hub

When Dr. Logan Schneider was in medical school, he didn’t get much sleep. “Residency training is a horribly draining experience where you get something like...four hours of sleep a night,” he says. It was during this time he realized how little we really know about sleep.

“I started prioritizing my own sleep, and also my wife’s and my kids’ — they’re sleeping champs!” he says. (In fact, his friends with newborns often turn to him when their babies won't sleep through the night.) Originally focusing on neurology in medical school, Logan soon became so fascinated by what he was learning about sleep that he decided to study it specifically.

Dr. Schneider is part of the Google Health team that coupled sensor research with sleep science to power contactless sleep sensing in the new Nest Hub, available beginning today. Sleep Sensing, powered by Soli technology, uses a tiny, low-energy radar system to sense motion at the micrometer level. Small motions ranging from breathing to movements are detected, while identifying features like faces aren’t, to give people information about their sleep duration, routines and quality. From this data, the Nest Hub can offer personalized suggestions like waking up at a consistent time, or exercising earlier in the day.

“When we started thinking about the second-generation Nest Hub, we noticed that nearly a quarter of people currently using Nest Hubs put their devices in their bedrooms,” says product manager Ashton Udall. “So we started to look into how we could bring more value to that part of the home.” When the Nest team surveyed users about what else they could do to make the device better for bedrooms, the top request, hands down, was for assistance with their sleep. Combined with trends showing people are getting less sleep and worse sleep, there was an obvious opportunity to help.

“It’s so exciting to be in this field right now because there are so many things we’re discovering about sleep,” says Dr. Raman Malhotra from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, who advised the Nest team throughout the development process. What the medical field is learning about sleep isn’t the only exciting thing, though. Dr. Malhotra also says it’s the fact that technology companies are increasingly interested in democratizing sleep research and helping more and more people understand their sleep. 

The number of combinations and permutations we tested in Forty Winks...it’s unfathomable. Dr. Logan Schneider

For both doctors and patients, sleep is a “black box,” as both Dr. Malhotra and Dr. Schneider explain it; if you go to a doctor and say you’re not sleeping well, it’s not as if you can give much more information than that. You know how you feel the next day, but not necessarily why. “Traditionally, we’d bring someone into a sleep lab to measure their sleep with something called a polysomnogram which is the gold standard for certain sleep disorders — but the polysomnogram has limitations, too,” says Dr. Malhotra. “Most patients don’t want to leave their house for a night and go to an unfamiliar environment. Then, of course, we’re changing what their sleep looks like — who’s going to sleep normally with wires attached to them?” And even after all that, he says, it’s difficult to learn much from just one night.

“That’s what’s so exciting about new sleep technologies,” Dr. Malhotra explains. “We can learn about how someone’s sleeping in their normal environment over a whole bunch of nights, not just one.” Plus, he says, something like the Nest Hub is accessible to far more people than a polysomnogram.

40 Winks, the sleep lab, with three beds and a bedside table set up with various Nest Hubs.

A look inside Forty Winks, Google Health’s sleep lab. 

Before the new Nest Hub could make its way into homes, the team had to get the technology ready for the real world — so into Google Health’s “sleep lab,” Forty Winks, they went. The team used the lab space to simulate various sleep environments. “There are different types of bed mattresses and frames, different types of fans, even adjustable bedside tables,” Dr. Schneider explains. “We had to create this space that we could modularly change so we could recreate as many kinds of sleeping experiences as possible. Co-sleepers, pets, different bedroom setups — all of it.” 

“The number of combinations and permutations we tested in Forty Winks...it’s unfathomable,” Dr. Schneider says. “It was incredibly complex.” For example, data was collected by the team recreating common scenarios such as reading a book or using your phone while sitting in bed, to differentiate these cases from sleep. The team also used “Chester,” a mechanical “breathing” dummy to mimic human respiration to test the Soli-based algorithms.

A dummy on a bed with a Nest Hub in the corner.

Chester, Forty Winks’s resident sleep dummy.

Given that development took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, Google Health product manager Reena Lee was initially concerned about how they would develop sleep sensing for a new hardware product while working remotely. But there was actually a silver lining in the unexpected work-from-home environment. “Googlers who were testing a beta unit at home could give real-time feedback quickly, share setup pictures, or even report issues after afternoon naps!" Reena says.

The team tested the system over hundreds of thousands of nights with thousands of people using it at home in their bedrooms. The device was also tested in a sleep clinic against polysomography, the "gold standard" Dr. Malhotra referenced, demonstrating comparable accuracy to published results for other clinical- and consumer-grade devices.

While the larger mystery of sleep likely won’t be unearthed any time soon, the team is hopeful that advancements like Sleep Sensing on the Nest Hub will help more people understand — and more importantly, prioritize — their sleep. Because, as Dr. Malhotra simply puts it, “There really is no way to replace a good night’s sleep.”

A Local Guide uses Google Maps to help those without homes

When Ashley Sundquist moved to Santa Monica, California four years ago, she noticed something different from the other places she’d lived. “I’ve lived in big cities much of my adult life; I’ve lived in Washington, D.C., Rome and New York City,” she says, “and none of those places prepared me for how many people here in Santa Monica are unhoused.” Santa Monica is part of the greater Los Angeles area, and according to city statistics, 907 people experience homelessness on any given night in the city; if you widen the area to include all of L.A., that number skyrockets to approximately 66,000. 

During her morning commute, Ashley noticed how many people were living outside and gathering at the Santa Monica Public Library. Her gym was next door, and eventually, Ashley started crossing the street to say hello. Soon, she’d made connections with library employees and the people without homes who gathered there, and she began looking for ways to help. 

She also became friends with a man named Joe, an unhoused member of the community who was often at the library. Joe mentioned he struggled with getting lost, which inspired her to turn to Google Maps and the app’s list feature. You can use this to create a list of places, like your favorite restaurants or places you want to visit on vacation. As an active member of the Local Guides program, a global community of contributors on Google Maps, Ashley was no stranger to sharing helpful information about her community with others.

So Ashley started creating lists for people in need. She made lists of resources for young people experiencing homelessness, food banks and restaurants that accept EBT cards. To make things even easier to find, Ashley bought  the domains “lashelters.org” and “lashelters.com,” which send visitors to these lists. “Now when anybody in the world goes to one of those websites, they’ll see these maps,” Ashley says. Joe and Ashley also became friends, and he helped get the word out about the websites. 

Screenshot of Ashley’s Google Maps list for youth resources in L.A.

Ashley’s Google Maps list for youth resources in L.A.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Ashley had to pivot. Right away she volunteered her time to teach caseworkers (via Google Meet) how to create their own lists in Google Maps. “I walked them through step-by-step how to search for locations, update the description and share the URL,” she says. She also created a list to help people find free Wi-Fi after many restaurants, coffee shops and other places that offer internet access closed their doors, and another list to help people find transportation to shelters when COVID-19 precautions altered bus schedules. 

Still, things changed so dramatically so quickly; she wanted to do more. “Toward the end of last March, I realized things weren’t going to go back to the way they were anytime soon. I knew how our outreach efforts were going to have to be different.” She started consulting with local agencies to gather information for more lists, or update the ones she’d already made with new COVID-19-related restrictions, changing hours or other stipulations. 

“I hope this can help people get through their day with dignity and humanity. That’s what we’re all trying to do right now.”

Eventually she wanted to try getting the information she’d gathered out in person. In May, she started volunteering at a weekly dinner serving some 150 unhoused neighbors at her local Salvation Army. Soon, she began leading dinners and helped her church get more involved. “We have 20 or so volunteers, with masks, temperature checks, distanced, all of that,” she says. “It’s a huge undertaking but I feel like it gives me a captive audience. Our team can bring a little light and love into a very dark place. We can help people find local resources on the Google Maps lists.”

Ashley looks through Google Maps lists with her friend Joe, whom she met through her work with unhoused people. Joe is also an advocate for his community.

Ashley looks through Google Maps lists with her friend Joe, whom she met through her work with unhoused people. Joe is also an advocate for his community.

Ashley greets everyone as they wait in line for their meal and makes an effort to learn names. “It might be the only time someone speaks to them or uses their name that week,” she explains. “I really work to build a rapport so then I can say to them, ‘Oh I see you’re having trouble getting this or finding that.’” Then she takes out her phone and shares her Google Maps lists on the spot. Ashely notes that many people without homes have smartphones, which act as their lifelines, but if she’s speaking with someone without one, Ashley uses her own to access her lists to call and try to help get them what they need — whether it’s a spot at a shelter or a no-cost doctor appointment.

“People are dealing with homelessness, trauma, hunger, mental health issues, technology barriers...I feel like the least I can do is make the available resources easier to find  with a Google Maps list,” she says. 

Ashley’s hope is that her neighbors feel seen and cared for, and that the Google Maps lists help them meet their basic needs. “I don’t think people realize how tremendously difficult it is to get help when you’re experiencing homelessness,” she says. “I hope this can help people get through their day with dignity and humanity. That’s what we’re all trying to do right now.” 

Chrome OS’s Jenn Chen on a decade of design

Ten years ago, Chrome OS principal designer Jenn Chen was hardly what you’d called a techie. “I was the last person I knew who got a smartphone,” she says, laughing. “I was a total Luddite! I didn’t want to do it!” But today, things are different — and not just for Jenn. The devices we use and how we use them have both changed dramatically over the years. “Technology plays a bigger part in our day to day,” she says. “So it’s increasingly important that we have a human, respectful approach in how we design and build products.” 

Chrome OS embraced that change, and Jenn’s seen the evolution from the inside. Originally, she was the only person on the team dedicated to Chrome OS user experience (UX) — now, she leads an entire team. We recently had the chance to talk to Jenn about a decade of Chrome OS, and what her path to design work was like. 

What kickstarted your interest in working in UX and design?

Growing up, I had a lot of different interests but never felt like they quite added up to a clear career path. I dabbled in biology because I loved marine life, read up on cognition because I was fascinated by how minds worked and even explored being a full-time pianist. One day in college, I tagged along with a friend who organized a visit to a design agency and I found it absolutely riveting. Here were different people with different professions — anthropologists, surgeons, engineers — all working together to solve a problem through a multifaceted, human-centered approach which I learned was called “design thinking.” This really sparked my interest in learning more about product design and building creative solutions to serve real user needs, which led to studying HCI (human-computer interaction) and user experience.

What’s the “movie version” of your job? How is it portrayed in pop culture, and how does that compare to reality? 

The perception is that UXers are in the lab all day, and that every user insight we learn immediately leads to a light bulb moment and design solution! There’s so much testing out ideas, learning that they won’t work and moving on — or years later, bringing that thing back and seeing there is something there, but the timing wasn't right or the tech wasn’t ready before. There’s a lot of constant failure. We designers call it “iteration,” but I think people forget that also means being wrong a lot — and being OK with being wrong, because it helps us learn. The movie version of my job glosses over all that.

Chrome OS was such a new idea. What were some of the early challenges of launching something so different?

Computers have been around much longer than Chromebooks, so people have established expectations and habits. The challenge is meaningfully rethinking what a computer can be while also meeting people where they are. I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with and learn from experts in this space as a part of the Chrome OS team and a part of the broader Google UX community.

One good example of this was that Chrome OS started out with a minimal approach when it came to task management: Users could only have full-screen windows with multiple tabs. We quickly learned that how people manage their tasks is personal, so flexibility is absolutely necessary. We introduced more window controls and tools over time. Today, we've expanded task management abilities for Desks to help people organize their apps, windows and tabs across virtual work spaces, but still benefit from a simplified, more constrained model when they only have a touchscreen handy. 

Early Chrome OS task management

Early Chrome OS task management

Chrome OS desks in 2021

Chrome OS desks in 2021

Jenn Chenn 10 years ago survey

What new launches are you excited about?

So many things! The team has been hard at work on a whole suite of features for Chrome OS’s 10th birthday. I’m really excited about the everyday efficiencies we’ve built, whether it’s helping you find that article you had open on your phone with Phone Hub or making screenshots and recordings more precise with Screen Capture — definitely things that I use daily as a designer. 

Ten years later, what keeps you interested in this work?

I came from the startup world, and to be totally honest I didn’t think I’d be at a larger company for this long. But one of the things I love about working on Chrome OS is that it’s kind of like a startup in a big company: We’ve come a long way after starting out as a little fish in this pond, there’s much more we aspire to do, and I get the huge privilege of being a part of the journey with an amazing team of people. 

What’s especially motivating for me is witnessing how computing impacts people’s economic and social mobility — whether it’s being part of the distance learning solution in a pandemic or supporting refugees in settling in to their new communities. I’m excited to see how some of the bets we’ve made play out, and to be a part of shaping the future of computing.

You feta believe we’ve got pasta Search Trends

In this post: The Google Trends tool shows us search interest in all things feta, cheese and pasta, including data on the viral feta pasta. 


Every season of quarantine can be marked by a food trend. Last year around this time, we were all experimenting with sourdough and banana bread. On the heels of our carbo loads came dalgona coffee. I’d be remiss not to mention the viral quesadilla hack

And now, we’ve arrived at the latest: the baked feta pasta. 

The beauty is in its simplicity — all you need are grape or cherry tomatoes, pasta noodles of your choice (though according to social feeds everywhere, penne seems to be a favorite), some olive oil, whatever seasonings you prefer and (of course) a big, salty block of feta. 

But you probably knew all of that already. What you might not know is how wildly interested the world is in this food trend — so we asked the Google Trends team to tell us. 

Feta search interest graph on Google Trends.

The interest in feta alone sharply increased in late January and peaked in early February, and it’s sitting high still. According to Google Trends, search interest in feta and pasta are at all-time highs in the U.S. “Baked feta pasta,” “viral feta pasta” and “tomato and feta pasta” are breakout searches as well over the past month. New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington D.C., Minnesota and Pennsylvania are the most interested in “baked feta pasta,” according to Google Trends. 

Graph showing search interest in baked feta pasta

Searches for the cheese and the pasta recipe are both trending and even hit a record high in February 2021, but when you compare the two...it’s no contest. Feta is the clear search interest winner. In fact, it’s the top trending cheese over the last 90 days in the U.S. The cheese stands alone.

Also in the U.S., for the first time ever, feta surpassed Parmigiano-Reggiano last month.

Graph showing search interest in feta versus parmigiano-reggiano.

Feta’s newfound fame extends beyond the viral pasta, though. According to Google Trends, these are the most popular feta recipes:
 

  1. Shakshuka with feta

  2. Spinach feta quiche

  3. Whipped feta

  4. Vegan feta pasta

Sadly, your local grocery store might be all sold out of blocks of the trendy cheese: The question “can you make baked feta pasta with crumbled feta?” spiked more than 500% in the last week of February. 

If you can’t find feta in block or crumbled form, you could try another recipe altogether: Google Trends data says a little something called “baked ziti” is also a breakout search term over the past 90 days...


Raise the woof for these Puppy Bowl search trends

Every February, search interest peaks for one of our favorite events. A round of appaws if you guessed correctly: It’s the national Puppy Bowl. We wanted to relive Sunday’s excitement by fetching some of the most pup-ular search trends. It’s the leash we could do. 

For starters, fans had to choose a team to cheer for — were you Team Ruff, or Team Fluff? The two were neck and neck (er, scruff and scruff?). Team Ruff ended up taking home the win on the field, but Team Fluff had higher search interest.

Graph showing search interest in Team Ruff and Team Fluff.

Some U.S. fans became attached over the course of the game, too. “How to adopt a puppy from the Puppy Bowl 2021” quadrupled in search interest over the past day, and “puppy bowl adoption” spiked more than 1,250% over the same time period. Don’t worry, Puppy Bowl players aren’t getting all the attention: Search interest in “adoption” more than doubled during the first hour of the event. 

As far as standout performances, the dog breed “Small Münsterländer” spiked more than 1,250% yesterday. And one of the participants, Chunky Monkey (not to be confused with the ice cream) stole yards and hearts.

Graph showing search interest in "Chunky Monkey."

(Fun fact: A related topic of search interest around Chunky Monkey was the Muppet’s Fozzie Bear. You can probably see why.) Given all the doggone curiosity, we decided to take a look at the most-searched dog breeds this year. 

Graph showing search interest in different dog breeds.

And here’s how search interest in the top three compares regionally:

Map showing regional interest in German Shepherds, Bulldogs and Labrador Retrievers.

While the German Shepherd came out on top, we can't help but root for pups everywhere — on every day of the year, and especially during Puppy Bowl. 

A Google designer takes us inside Search’s mobile redesign

The beginning of a new year inspires people everywhere to make changes. It's when many of us take stock of our lives, our careers or even just our surroundings and think about what improvements we can make. That's also been the case for Google designer Aileen Cheng. Aileen recently led a major visual redesign of the mobile Search experience, which rolls out in the coming days. “We wanted to take a step back to simplify a bit so people could find what they’re looking for faster and more easily,” she says. “I find it really refreshing. To me, it’s a breath of fresh air!” 

Like all organizing efforts, this one came with its challenges. “Rethinking the visual design for something like Search is really complex,” Aileen says. “That’s especially true given how much Google Search has evolved. We’re not just organizing the web’s information, but all the world’s information,” Aileen says. “We started with organizing web pages, but now there’s so much diversity in the types of content and information we have to help make sense of.” 

Image showing a mock-up of a Pixel phone with Google Search pulled up on the screen. The search results show answers about Humpback whales, including two images.

We recently had the chance to learn more about the new look from Aileen, as well as the process. Here are five things that drove the redesign: 

1. Bringing information into focus. “We want to let the search results shine, allowing people to focus on the information instead of the design elements around it,” says Aileen. “It’s about simplifying the experience and getting people to the information they’re looking for as clearly and quickly as possible.” 

2. Making text easier to read. One way the team did this was by using larger, bolder text, so the human eye can scan and understand Search results faster. “We’re making the result and section titles bigger, as well,” Aileen says. While we’re on the subject of text: The update also includes more of Google’s own font, which already shows up in Android and Gmail, among other Google products. “Bringing consistency to when and how we use fonts in Search was important, too, which also helps people parse information more efficiently,” Aileen explains. 

Image showing a phone with Google Search pulled up on the screen. The search query is for "running spots sf."

3. Creating more breathing room. “We decided to create a new edge-to-edge results design and to minimize the use of shadows, making it easier to immediately see what you’re looking for,” says Aileen. “The overall effect is that you have more visual space and breathing room for Search results and other content to take center stage.”

4. Using color to highlight what’s important. Aileen says that some other iterations of the redesign experimented with using lots of bold colors, and others tried more muted tones. They weren’t quite right, though, and ultimately the team focused on centering content and images against a clean background and using color more intentionally to guide the eye to important information without being overwhelming or distracting. “It has an optimistic feel, too,” Aileen says.  

5. Leaning into that “Googley” feeling. If you’re noticing the new design feels a little bubblier and bouncier, you’re onto something. “If you look at the Google logo, you’ll notice there’s a lot of roundness to it, so we’re borrowing from that and bringing it to other places as well,” says Aileen. You’ll see that in parts of this redesign, like in rounded icons and imagery. “That form is already so much a part of our DNA. Just look at the Search bar, or the magnifying glass,” Aileen points out.

Image showing Google logo with design effects pointing to its roundness.

Part of the work is also in refreshing the look while remaining familiar. “My three-year-old recently dropped a handful of Legos in my hand, red, yellow, green, blue, and he told me, ‘Mama, this is Google,’” Aileen says. “That’s how playful and well known we are to people. And when we redesign something, we want to bring that familiarity and approachability with us, too.”

Source: Search


2020, finally over: Stories from Google this year

The year 2020 felt particularly sluggish—and simultaneously much, much too fast. With so many things happening in the world (and far fewer things happening in my day-to-day quarantine life), it’d be easy to forget what exactly occurred and when. 

So humor us while we—gasp!—revisit the past year a bit, and take a look at some of what we worked on here at Google. Because as slow as the year may have felt at times, what didn’t happen in 2020? 

1. As COVID-19 began to spread, we made sure that Google products were supporting people during the pandemic—and especially what Search and News could do to surface relevant, accurate information. More than once, we turned to Dr. Karen DeSalvo, our Chief Health Officer, for her insights on the pandemic, including information about the coming vaccines. In April, we partnered with Apple to use Bluetooth technology to create Exposure Notifications System, which is now being used by public health authorities in more than 50 countries, states and regions around the world to anonymously inform people if they’ve come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

2. Part of fighting COVID-19 means supporting businesses and communities. Our $800 million commitment to small and medium-sized businesses was one of these initial efforts. We made it easier for businesses to update their profiles using Search and Maps, and gave them new ways to communicate with customers. For people who needed to find work or forge new careers, we launched a new suite of Google Career Certificate programs. We also found ways to support Black-owned businesses, with new funding for Black founders and the launch of the Black-owned business attribute for Business Profiles.

Image showing a phone with a Google business profile for Source Booksellers in Detroit pulled up. Two women are standing in the image of the business. The page has a Black-owned business attribute on it.

3. Finding jobs and helping businesses succeed was only one part of the transition: How people worked hugely changed. As more people worldwide began working from home, we shared resources to make the transition easier. Our experts offered tips on how to make your home work environment more efficient, and about their methods for fighting screen fatigue. We also investigated the “why?” behind some of the WFH feelings people everywhere were having—like why remote meetings just aren’t the same as the real thing.

4. Remote teaching isn’t the same, either. My sister, who lives with me, teaches third-grade online, and I’m completely in awe of how hard she works. This year, we offered resources on how to keep learning even without internet access. The Anywhere School introduced more than 50 new features, like a Tech ToolKit for families who need help troubleshooting, and ways for instructors to introduce polls into Meet. And we launched new tools for parents who became teachers. We also heard personal distance learning stories, and did our best to tell educators how thankful we are for their work. (Thanks, Vicki!)

5. The passage of time can be marked by eras of emoji. World Emoji Day coincided with the introduction of critters like 🦬 and 🐻‍❄️. And it really just wouldn’t be 2020 if new emoji mashups didn’t include the 😷 emoji and a few new ways to get in our feelings. Oh, my top emoji of 2020? Thanks for asking! Obviously, they were 😬, 🥴, 🙃, 💞 and 🍕.

Animated GIF showing the lion, turtle, pig, cat laughing so hard it's crying, dophin, and party emoji transitioning from the originals into the redesigned versions.

6. Masks weren’t required to welcome new augmented-reality friends into our homes. From dinosaurs to kangaroos to the Cambropachycope (I know, I know, your favorite), there was no shortage of AR-created creatures at our disposal. (A popular fictional paleven made the cut.) 

Image showing an actual cat on the floor of a living room next to an AR creation.

7. We said goodbye to earworms with the launch of Hum to Search, a new feature where anyone can hum or sing a tune and find out what song is stuck in their head. The tool was introduced during Google’s live (streamed) Search event and talked about advancements in AI that are making Search more accessible and useful. And this year, Search became more visually friendly, allowing us to do things like use Google Lens to shop or turn to AR for help with homework.

8. Search isn’t the only Google tool that’s improved leaps and bounds since its inception: Google Maps turned 15! To mark this milestone, we rolled out a fresh look and helpful new features and also looked back on the journey. The work hardly ended there: Maps and Search also debuted real-time wildfire maps and information. And as the spread of COVID-19 affected how people moved around this year, Maps released multiple new features focused on helping people stay informed and safe and make decisions around travel, and My Maps was an incredibly important resource for communities everywhere, helping people find food banks and testing sites, among so many other things.

9. “The world must act now if we’re going to avert the worst consequences of climate change,” CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in September, announcing our latest efforts at achieving a carbon-free future, and eliminating our carbon legacy entirely. More good news: data centers are more energy efficient than ever. But small changes can make a difference, too: We shared tips on how everyone could become more sustainable at home. Other projects included hitting our hardware sustainability goals—and creating news ones—and making sure our own construction principles go above and beyond.

10. One thing we all relied on in 2020 was video calling. In May, we made Google Meet free for all—andthrough March 2021 all free Meet users can enjoy unlimited meetings without having to worry about the 60-minute time limit. Plus, a handful of new features specifically geared to help teachers with video schooling were added, and we shared tips on how to make sure video conferences are accessible to everyone. And I set my grandma up with a Nest Hub Max so we can video chat, and Google partnered with senior care centers so their residents could do the same with their families.

Image showing a Nest Hub Max sitting on a table. On the screen is an older women, looking out, smiling; in a small, picture in picture screen in the corner is a younger woman, smiling.

11. The world has been intensely focused on health during the pandemic—including mental health. We took an in-depth look at Blue Dot, an employee resource group at Google that works to normalize conversations about mental health. The Digital Wellbeing team worked on giving you more control and transparency over selfies, and Search launched an anxiety self-assessment tool. On a more personal level, Googler Carly Schwartz shared her journey to sobriety, and how Google tools can help others who are looking for help.

12. Despite the challenges of 2020, Googlers continued doing amazing things. We met Fabiana Fregonesi, a scuba diver who photographs and advocates for sharks, and Sarah Torney, who used old family photos to take us to turn-of-the-century San Francisco. And of course, in true 2020 fashion, more than a few Googlers came up with creative new hobbies for their time spent at home. Speaking of fashion: AI Engineer Dale Markowitz showed us how to use machine learning to create your own stylist.

Animated GIF showing a current day San Francisco bus. The screen moves into a black and white photo of turn of the century San Francisco and shows a cable car on the same street.

All this just skims the surface: We also talked about what it’s like to work at home with our dogs and offered mobile photography tips—and yes, while time became more and more of a construct, it really was just this year that we introduced new Pixel phones and Nest devices

But with all that said, I think it’s time to say goodbye to this year. Farewell, 2020, and thanks for giving us plenty to write about. Here’s to ending the year on a grateful note, and looking forward to the next one with hope. 

Producer Peter Cottentale captures 2020 in a song

Checkout the song, ‘Together,’ the backing track to Year in Search.

In a year unlike any other, we knew Google’s 2020 Year in Search campaign would need to take a unique approach. Each year, Google Trends data reflects not only everyday queries, but also the moments, people and ideas that defined that year. Inspired by the year’s Trends data, music producer Peter Cottontale created the song highlighted in Year in Search.

Peter is a GRAMMY–winning producer and musician for his work with Chance the Rapper.  He self released his first solo album, CATCH, earlier this year. He’s also collaborated with artists all over the world over the past decade as a composer, producer, and music director, as well as a featured artist primarily on keys. And the Chicago native has a special place in his heart for working with artists from his hometown.
Peter Cottontale

Peter wrote and produced the song “Together”in collaboration with Chance the Rapper, Cynthia Erivo, the Chicago Children’s Choir, Matt Jones (of Re-Collective Orchestra,) and Rachel Robinson and Jamila Woods. “Together” acknowledges 2020’s heartaches and challenges, as well as the need for communities to come together. Ultimately, Peter’s song delivers a message of hope.

We sat down with Peter to learn more about his creative process, why this song meant so much to him and the importance of lifting Black voices.

What inspired Together?

After hearing about the plans for Year in Search, the context and vision for the project really stood out. From health concerns to the spotlight on the Black struggle, it felt like the right way to help contextualize, increase representation and create opportunities for all of those involved through Google’s Year in Search campaign. My hope is that showcasing opportunities for Black artists with Google will lead to more opportunities and other projects down the road. 

Tell us about your creative process. 

We had initial meetings discussing what 2020 has meant to people. The cast of people involved in creating the music and the film were, if not leaders themselves, surrounded by leaders who in their own way are pushing for change in the community. It was also about giving everyone hope and a bit of celebration too. We wanted to show that by working together, growing together, we will get through this.

How did you select the talent that helped bring your vision to reality?

In a year where the focus has been on Black women, I wanted to showcase and highlight amazing Black women artists and writers.  I worked with Jamila Woods and Young Chicago Authors to develop some of the early concepts for the record. Cynthia Erivo, an amazing artist and Black woman,  was the featured female vocalist on the track. And we also included Black artists from a variety of different genres and experiences. To really capture the essence of this year, we asked the Chicago Children’s Choir to join the project. The organization’s social justice history and effort to bring young voices of different backgrounds together through song truly inspired me. 

What impact has this year had on you, both personally and professionally? 

This year has been the craziest year of my life so far for sure, and I’m sure others feel the same way too. I learned how to run and operate my recording studio in the middle of shutdowns, with virtual sessions and other offerings. I had to get really creative about how I rolled out my own music and merchandise. I was in the streets most of the summer alongside community leaders, serving and amplifying the work of friends around me who spent their summer protesting and fighting for Black Lives. And of course, I’ve had to navigate and work around production delays caused by COVID-19, so I’ve found different ways of getting things done, and grown in patience. As tough as this year has been, it has been full of blessings and so many great lessons. I’m really excited for the future.

What is your wish for the future of diversity and representation in creative fields and the music industry?

Wow, I have to pick one wish? I always wish for the progression of diversity and the advancement of authentic representation in writers rooms, media and development of culture-based environments.  So often, equity gets lost somewhere, for non-creatives and creatives alike. Black people are a disenfranchised minority who are affected by misrepresentation on a daily basis on macro and micro levels. I couldn’t possibly solve [this] with one wish.

As 2020 comes to an end, we are excited to share “Together” with the world. Thank you, Peter and everyone involved the making of this much needed piece of music.

Source: Search


El productor Peter Cottentale captura el 2020 en una canción

Echa un vistazo a la canción "Together", la pista de acompañamiento de "El año en búsquedas" ...

En un año como ningún otro, sabíamos que la campaña 2020 de Year in Search tendría que adoptar un enfoque único. Cada año, los datos de Google Trends reflejan no solo las consultas diarias, sino también los momentos, las personas y las ideas que definieron ese año. Inspirado por los datos de Tendencias del año, el productor musical Peter Cottontale creó la canción destacada en Year in Search.

Peter Cottontale

Peter es un productor y músico ganador del GRAMMY por su trabajo con Chance the Rapper. Él mismo lanzó su primer solo álbum, CATCH, a principios de este año. También ha colaborado con artistas de todo el mundo durante la última década como compositor, productor y director musical, así como también como artista destacado principalmente en los teclados. El nativo de Chicago tiene un lugar especial en su corazón para trabajar con artistas de su ciudad natal.

Peter escribió y produjo la canción "Together" en colaboración con Chance the Rapper, Cynthia Erivo, el Chicago Children’s Choir, Matt Jones (de Re-Collective Orchestra), Rachel Robinson y Jamila Woods. "Juntos" reconoce las angustias y los desafíos del 2020, así como la necesidad de que las comunidades se unan. Al final, la canción de Peter transmite un mensaje de esperanza.

Nos sentamos con Peter para aprender más sobre su proceso creativo, por qué esta canción significaba tanto para él y la importancia de elevar las voces negras.

¿Qué inspiró Together?

Después de escuchar sobre los planes para "El Año en Búsquedas", el contexto y la visión del proyecto realmente se destacaron. Desde problemas de salud hasta el foco en la lucha de la comunidad negra, se sintió como la forma correcta de ayudar a contextualizar, aumentar la representación y crear oportunidades para todos los involucrados a través de la campaña "El Año en Búsquedas" de Google. Mi esperanza es que mostrar oportunidades para artistas negros con Google genere más oportunidades y otros proyectos en el futuro.

Cuéntanos sobre tu proceso creativo.

Tuvimos reuniones iniciales para discutir lo que el 2020 ha significado para las personas. El elenco de personas involucradas en la creación de la música y la película eran, si no líderes, rodeados de líderes que, a su manera, están impulsando el cambio en la comunidad. También se trataba de dar esperanza a todos y un poco de celebración también. Queríamos mostrar que trabajando juntos, creciendo juntos, lo superaremos.

¿Cómo seleccionaste el talento que te ayudó a hacer realidad tu visión?

En un año en el que la atención se centró en las mujeres negras, quería mostrar y destacar a las increíbles artistas y escritoras negras. Trabajé con Jamila Woods y Young Chicago Authors para desarrollar algunos de los primeros conceptos para el disco. Cynthia Erivo, una artista increíble y mujer negra, fue la vocalista femenina destacada en la pista. También incluimos artistas negros de una variedad de géneros y experiencias diferentes. Para capturar realmente la esencia de este año, le pedimos al Coro de Niños de Chicago que se uniera al proyecto. La historia de justicia social de la organización y su esfuerzo por unir voces jóvenes de diferentes orígenes a través de canciones realmente me inspiraron.

¿Qué impacto ha tenido este año en ti, tanto a nivel personal como profesional?

Este año ha sido el año más loco de mi vida hasta ahora sin duda, y estoy seguro de que otros también sienten lo mismo. Aprendí a operar mi estudio de grabación en medio de cierres, con sesiones virtuales y otras herramientas. Tuve que ponerme realmente creativo sobre cómo lanzar mi propia música y marca. Estuve en las calles la mayor parte del verano junto a los líderes comunitarios, sirviendo y ampliando el trabajo de amigos a mi alrededor que pasaron el verano protestando y luchando por la comunidad negra. Y, por supuesto, tuve que navegar y solucionar los retrasos en la producción causados por COVID-19, así que encontré diferentes formas de hacer las cosas y crecí en paciencia. A pesar de lo duro que ha sido este año, ha estado lleno de bendiciones y de muchas lecciones maravillosas. Estoy muy emocionado por el futuro.

¿Cuál es tu deseo para el futuro de la diversidad y la representación en los campos creativos y en la industria de la música?

Vaya, ¿tengo que elegir solo un deseo? Siempre deseo la progresión de la diversidad y el avance de la representación auténtica en las salas de escritores, los medios y el desarrollo de entornos basados en la cultura. Muy a menudo, la equidad se pierde en alguna parte, tanto para los no creativos como para los creativos. Los negros son una minoría desfavorecida que se ven afectados por la tergiversación a diario a nivel macro y micro. No podría resolver [esto] con un solo deseo.

Ahora que el 2020 llega a su fin, estamos emocionados de compartir "Together" con el mundo. Gracias, Peter y todos los involucrados en la realización de esta pieza musical tan necesaria.

Source: Search