Author Archives: Sissie Hsiao

New features for parents and kids on Google Assistant

Earlier this week, I was in the kitchen watching my kids — at the (very fun) ages of seven and 11 — engaged in a conversation with our Google Assistant. My son, who has recently discovered a love of karaoke, asked it to play music so he could practice singing along to his favorite band, BTS. He and his sister ask it all kinds of questions: “How tall is the Eiffel Tower?” “How much do elephants weigh?” “Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?”

Whether we’re dictating a text message in the car or starting a timer while cooking at home, one thing is true: Voice plays an increasingly important role in the way we get things done — not just for us, but for our kids, too. It allows them to indulge their curiosities, learn new things and tap into their creative, inquisitive minds — all without having to look at a screen. As a mom, I see firsthand how kids’ relationship with technology starts by discovering the power of their own voice. And as today’s kids grow up in a world surrounded by technology, we want to help them have safer, educational and natural conversational experiences with Assistant. Here’s how we’re doing it.

Parental controls for safer, age-appropriate content

Since we know kids — like my own — tend to use their families’ shared devices, we take very seriously our responsibility to help parents protect them from harmful and inappropriate content. Building on that long-standing commitment, we’re rolling out a number of new features that will make it safer for your kids to interact with Assistant.

To give parents more control and peace of mind over the interactions their children have on Google speakers and smart displays, we’re introducing parental controls for Google Assistant. In the coming weeks through the Google Home, Family Link and Google Assistant apps on Android and iOS, you can modify media settings, enable or disable certain Assistant functionality and set up downtime for your kids.

The home screen of Google Assistant parental controls displaying different options, including Media, Assistant features, Downtime and Assistant devices.

After selecting your child’s account, you can choose the music and video providers they can access — such as YouTube Kids, YouTube and YouTube Music — and your kids will only be able to explore content from those pre-selected providers. You can also decide whether you want your children to listen to news and podcasts on their devices.

Through parental controls, you can also control the specific Assistant features your kids can use — like restricting them from making phone calls or choosing what kind of answers they get from Assistant. And to encourage a healthy relationship between kids and technology, just say, “Hey Google, open Assistant settings.” From there, navigate to parental controls, and you can block off time when they shouldn’t use their devices, just like you can do on personal Android devices and Chromebooks. Whether you have parental controls turned on or not, we always make sure you’re in control of your privacy settings.

Educational and fun conversations with Kids Dictionary

“What does telescope mean?” “What is the definition of ‘fluorescent’?”

Kids are naturally inquisitive and often turn to their Assistant to define words like these when they’re not sure what they mean. To help make those interactions even more engaging, we're introducing Kids Dictionary, which gives simplified and age-appropriate answers across speakers, smart displays and mobile devices.

With Kids Dictionary, children’s interactions with Assistant can be both educational and fun, allowing them to fuel their interests and learn new things. When your child is voice matched and Assistant detects their voice asking about a definition, it will automatically respond using this experience in Kids Dictionary.

A text bubble asks “Hey Google, what does telescope mean?” A Nest Hub Max is shown next to the text bubble, displaying a picture of a telescope and its definition.

Whether they’re doing their homework or simply curious about a new word they saw in a book, they’re only a “Hey Google” away from a little more help.

Kid-friendly voices for more engaging interactions

Kids today are growing up with technology, so it’s important that their experiences are developmentally appropriate. In addition to our increased efforts around safety and education, we’re also introducing four new kid-friendly voices. These new voices, which we designed alongside kids and parents, were developed with a diverse range of accents to reflect different communities and ways of speaking. And like a favorite teacher, these voices speak in slower and more expressive styles to help with storytelling and aid comprehension.

To activate one of Assistant’s new kid-friendly voices, kids can simply say, “Hey Google, change your voice!” Parents can also help their child navigate to Assistant settings, where they can select a new voice from the options available.

Like all parents, I’m always amazed by my kids’ insatiable curiosity. And every day, I see that curiosity come to life in the many questions they ask our Assistant. We’re excited to not only provide a safer experience, but an educational and engaging one, too — and to continue our work to truly build an Assistant for everyone.

Why voice AI matters and what’s ahead for Assistant

I’ve been leading the Google Assistant team for over a year now, and I’m inspired every day by the meaningful questions it raises — like how voice can support underserved populations, teach kids new things or help people with impaired speech communicate more easily. This week, as part of VentureBeat’s annual Transform technology conference, I sat down for a virtual fireside chat with Jana Eggers, CEO of Nara Logics, to tackle some of these questions and talk about what’s ahead for Assistant.

As a computer scientist at heart, I had a lot of fun digging into topics like the machine learning (ML) renaissance, the future of conversational artificial intelligence (AI) and the incredible power of voice to transform people’s lives. You can watch the whole fireside chat or check out a few takeaways from our conversation below.

A challenger mindset can push the limits of what’s possible.

Many folks who’ve worked with me know that I like to challenge assumptions. When it comes to building products at Google, that means using technology in new, sometimes uncharted ways to try and solve real-world problems. When I worked on the Google Ads team, for example, I helped create the first ML-driven ads product by challenging existing assumptions about what ML could do. And I’m super excited to use that same challenger spirit to build a world-class, conversational assistant that truly understands you and helps you get things done. I firmly believe we can continue to change people’s lives if we harness new technologies and challenge the boundaries of what’s possible.

Voice is a great democratizer.

There are so many people who are underserved with their information and access needs. We talk about new internet users, or people who can’t read but want to access the world’s information. We now see hundreds of millions of voice queries every day, and that’s continuing to grow among new internet users. In India, for example, nearly 30% of Hindi search queries are spoken. That insight tells us a lot. If you think about reaching these people and making voice a democratizer for access, it’s a compelling area to continue to invest in.

We’re working to create magical conversational experiences for everyone.

The holy grail with Google Assistant is to figure out how a computer can understand humans the way humans understand each other. That’s an audacious, ambitious goal. Human language is ambiguous; we rely on many different cues when we speak to each other that are inherent to us as human beings. So we need to teach computers how humans express themselves and to ask: What are they trying to say? That’s what this product strives to be — a natural and conversational assistant. Every day we ask ourselves: How do we create a magical conversational experience, where the computer truly understands what you’re trying to say and adapts to you?

Pragmatic dreamers can change the world.

This work can’t be done without the right team. Building the best team of people possible is my number one piece of advice. This is hard stuff; it requires a type of individual I call a “pragmatic dreamer.” You want people who can dream big, but you also need people in the trenches figuring out the real, pragmatic engineering challenges standing in the way. I think it’s really important to create space for a team to ideate and explore the boundaries of what’s possible with technology.

Put people first and the rest will follow.

Sometimes we get so enamored by technology that we forget what it's for. I always ask myself: “What are we trying to do for human beings; what are we trying to make better for them?” Sometimes voice can be considered a technology in search of a problem, but I think of it differently. There are real problems people have that this technology can solve. It’s the constant marriage of user problems and what technology can do to solve them. If you keep people as your north star, you can’t go wrong.

Have more natural conversations with Google Assistant

Like any other busy parent, I’m always looking for ways to make daily life a little bit easier. And Google Assistant helps me do that — from giving me cooking instructions as I’m making dinner for my family to sharing how much traffic there is on the way to the office. Assistant allows me to get more done at home and on the go, so I can make time for what really matters.

Every month, over 700 million people around the world get everyday tasks done with their Assistant. Voice has become one of the main ways we communicate with our devices. But we know it can feel unnatural to say “Hey Google'' or touch your device every time you want to ask for help. So today, we’re introducing new ways to interact with your Assistant more naturally — just as if you were talking to a friend.

Get the conversation going

Our first new feature, Look and Talk, is beginning to roll out today in the U.S. on Nest Hub Max. Once you opt in, you can simplylook at the screen and ask for what you need. From the beginning, we’ve built Look and Talk with your privacy in mind. It’s designed to activate when you opt in and both Face Match and Voice Match recognize it’s you. And video from these interactions is processed entirely on-device, so it isn’t shared with Google or anyone else.

Let’s say I need to fix my leaky kitchen sink. As I walk into the room, I can just look at my Nest Hub Max and say “Show plumbers near me” — without having to say “Hey Google” first.

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes to recognize whether you’re actually making eye contact with your device rather than just giving it a passing glance. In fact, it takes six machine learning models to process more than 100 signals from both the camera and microphone — like proximity, head orientation, gaze direction, lip movement, context awareness and intent classification — all in real time.

Last year, we announced Real Tone, an effort to improve Google’s camera and imagery products across skin tones. Continuing in that spirit, we’ve tested and refined Look and Talk to work across a range of skin tones so it works well for people with diverse backgrounds. We’ll continue to drive this work forward using the Monk Skin Tone Scale, released today.

GIF of a man baking cookies with a speech bubble saying “Set a timer for 10 minutes.” His Google Nest Hub Max responds with a speech bubble saying “OK, 10 min. And that’s starting…now.”

We’re also expanding quick phrases to Nest Hub Max, which let you skip saying “Hey Google” for some of your most common daily tasks. So as soon as you walk through the door, you can just say “Turn on the hallway lights” or “Set a timer for 10 minutes.” Quick phrases are also designed with privacy in mind. If you opt in, you decide which phrases to enable, and they’ll work when Voice Match recognizes it’s you.

Looking ahead: more natural conversation

In everyday conversation, we all naturally say “um,” correct ourselves and pause occasionally to find the right words. But others can still understand us, because people are active listeners and can react to conversational cues in under 200 milliseconds. We believe your Google Assistant should be able to listen and understand you just as well.

To make this happen, we're building new, more powerful speech and language models that can understand the nuances of human speech — like when someone is pausing, but not finished speaking. And we’re getting closer to the fluidity of real-time conversation with the Tensor chip, which is custom-engineered to handle on-device machine learning tasks super fast. Looking ahead, Assistant will be able to better understand the imperfections of human speech without getting tripped up — including the pauses, “umms” and interruptions — making your interactions feel much closer to a natural conversation.

We're working hard to make Google Assistant the easiest way to get everyday tasks done at home, in the car and on the go. And with these latest improvements, we’re getting closer to a world where you can spend less time thinking about technology — and more time staying present in the moment.

Grow your games business with new ads solutions

Whether it’s to join the latest multiplayer craze or dive back into an old favorite, user interest in gaming worldwide continues to rise as people spend more time at home. In fact, our data shows that global searches for “best online games” between February and April were up over 100 percent compared to the same time last year. 

Mobile game developers have a huge opportunity to connect with these eager players around the globe. This week at Think Games in China, we’re announcing new ways for developers to engage with the right players and maximize revenue so your team can spend more time creating awesome gaming experiences.  

Reach more of the right players for your game

In today’s crowded gaming landscape, it’s not easy to build a community and retain players over time. App campaigns for engagement were built to help you get players who’ve previously installed your game to return, with custom messages across Search, YouTube and over 1 million apps in our network. 

Available globally in September, App campaigns for engagement will soon also run in Google Play and support audiences from Google Analytics for Firebase. We’re also updating our audience management features to make it easier for you to connect with the right player segments. 

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App campaigns for engagement will soon be able to serve ads in the Play Store

FunPlus, the developers behind the mobile strategy game King of Avalon, wanted to find ways to also get current players to come back during a mega update event. It used App campaigns for engagement to create custom messages for previous player groups who had stopped playing. This resulted in 34 percent more high-value players returning to play, as compared to other strategies it used.

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To get started with App campaigns for engagement, make sure you set up deep linking and app conversion tracking, and use a supported measurement solution like Google Analytics for Firebase or one of our App Attribution Partners.  

Here are a few more features designed to help you reach players across the lifecycle of your game:  

  • App campaigns for pre-registration: Get a head start in building an excited community for your game before it launches. Learn more.
  • Maximize conversions bidding for App campaigns for installs: Drive as many installs as possible within a set budget to reach your campaign goals. Learn more.
  • Target Return on Ad Spend (tROAS) open beta for App campaigns for installs: Adjust your bids dynamically based on the value each user is likely to bring for your game. Available later this year to all advertisers bidding on Google Analytics for Firebase events. Learn more. 
  • Creative simplification: Simplify your creative development process by creating image ads only in 1.91:1, 1:1, and 4:5 aspect ratios. You can also crop existing image assets to these aspect ratios with our new cropping tool. Learn more.

Maximize your ad revenue

To help you get the most value from your ads, Open Bidding will be available as a beta to all AdMob developers this fall. Today, many developers rely solely on waterfall mediation, a tried-and-true way to monetize with multiple advertising sources that can be hard to set up and manage at scale. Waterfall mediation calls ad networks one at a time until one of them returns an ad. Though effective, you could be losing out on additional revenue since networks are prioritized based on historical CPMs, rather than real-time pricing.

As Google’s in-app bidding solution, Open Bidding puts participating networks in a fair real-time auction to compete for your impressions, so the winner is always the highest paying network. This means you’ll get the highest revenue available for every impression. With Open Bidding, you can find the most popular demand sources to compete for your impressions in real time. Open Bidding makes earning more even easier by eliminating the need to manually set CPMs and reducing the number of SDKs your teams need to integrate and manage. 

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CookApps used Open Bidding in order to grow revenue for its match-three puzzle game Candy Blast. By switching to Open Bidding, CookApps optimized revenue across ad networks and saw a 26 percent increase in both total ad revenue and CPMs, compared to their previous waterfall mediation setup. Open Bidding also enabled teams to save time from managing multiple networks, allowing it to focus on other priorities to expand its business. 

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Along with Open Bidding, we’re announcing several other solutions to simplify your setup so you can earn even more from your apps:

  • Impression-level LTV pingback: Get real-time estimates of impression values to help measure lifetime value of players across all revenue sources (iOS, Android, Unity).

  • Rewarded interstitials: Increase engagement with rewarded ads by proactively showing players in-game offers in exchange for watching a video during gameplay breaks.

  • App open beta: See up to twice as much user engagement with the improved user experience of app open ads, which now offer standardized publisher branding and simplified user tap targets.Learn more.

  • AdMob plug-in for Unity software: Create and edit ads easily in the Unity interface, letting you quickly implement ads into your Unity game with just a single line of code. 

To hear more about how these solutions can help you build your community and grow your business, watch the Ads Announcements session and tune in to the full Think Gameslive stream.  

How our display buying platforms share revenue with publishers

In this post, we explain how Google’s display advertising business works when advertisers and publishers choose to use our buy-side and sell-side services. Separately, we also looked at how top news publishers monetize their content using Google Ad Manager.

Over the years, we’ve continued to invest in our advertising technology to deliver products that help publishers and advertisers sell and buy display ads online. The products we’ve built have helped the digital advertising market grow and keep the internet open and free to everyone. 

Across the ad tech industry, thousands of companies work together to show digital ads across the web. Here’s a look at how display advertising works and how ads flow from buyers to sellers every day.

Display-Ad-Ecosystem-final_6_23_2020

Recently, some have estimated that as much as half of the revenue from display advertising is kept by the advertising technology providers themselves. We can't speak for the many other companies in this space, but that is not the case for Google. 

Even when ads flow through both our buy-side and sell-side services, publishers receive most of the revenue. In fact in 2019, when marketers used Google Ads or Display & Video 360 to buy display ads on Google Ad Manager, publishers kept over 69 percent of the revenue generated. And when publishers use our Ad Manager platform to sell ads directly to advertisers, they keep even more of the revenue.  

A large portion of the revenue we keep from our display advertising products goes to defray the costs of running a complex and evolving business, including building and maintaining state-of-the-art data centers, investing in cutting-edge computer science research to identify the most useful and relevant ads, and enabling innovations that increase publisher revenue, maximize advertiser return on investment, and keep the web free and open for everyone.  

To help illustrate how our ad tech solutions work, below are two of the most common ways advertisers buy ads using our services.

Display advertising purchased with Google Ads 

Every day, millions of advertisers, including many small to emerging businesses, use our Google Ads product to buy search ads, ads that appear on YouTube, and display ads that appear on non-Google websites and apps. Advertisers that choose this platform do so because it makes the process of buying digital advertising easy and effective. 

When advertisers use Google Ads to buy display ads, the vast majority only pay Google when a user takes an action after seeing their ad, such as clicking on the ad, filling out a form or making a purchase. Though Google only charges these advertisers when a user takes an action, we always pay publishers for their ad space sold via Ad Manager. To enable this dynamic, our technology evaluates every impression and converts the advertisers’ business objectives to cost-per-mille (CPM) bids in advertising auctions to buy publisher ad inventory. By taking on the risk of showing ads to users—regardless of whether the user takes the action the advertiser wants—Google Ads helps buyers and sellers more efficiently pay and earn in ways that best suit their businesses. 

In 2019, publishers using Ad Manager kept over 69 percent of the total amount advertisers paid when using Google Ads to buy their display inventory. Because Google Ads does not charge advertisers for most impressions, it does not have a fixed per-impression fee. Instead, Google’s share of revenue varies over time based on various factors, including the advertisers’ specified objectives, the types of display ads they choose to run and how users respond to them. 

Google-Ads-to-Ad-Manager_6_23_2020

Display advertising purchased with Display & Video 360

Google also works with large brands and their agencies to help them execute complex display advertising strategies and campaigns. These advertisers often use our Display & Video 360 enterprise software to reach consumers around the world.

Most advertisers that choose this platform buy digital ads in many different formats, on many different properties—well beyond the publisher websites and apps that use Ad Manager. Using Display & Video 360, these advertisers can buy ads on more than 80 publisher or sell-side platforms including AT&T, Comcast, Index Exchange, OpenX, Rubicon Project, MoPub and others. Our standard rate for advertisers using Display & Video 360 to purchase display ads is 15 percent.

Many publishers choose to use multiple sell-side platforms to sell their programmatic inventory to advertisers. When an advertiser uses Display & Video 360 to buy inventory from a publisher that uses Ad Manager, publishers keep over 69 percent of the total amount advertisers paid.

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We invest in our systems to support the open web

Although we don’t know what other companies charge, we’ve shared our pricing to provide clarity into how our display business works. By helping businesses large and small reach customers, we can help publishers fund their content online and contribute to sustaining the ad-supported web for people around the world.


*Figures presented in this post reflect the fees retained by Google and the revenue shares Google pays to publishers, and do not include fees that may be paid to other platforms and services. Amounts are not prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).