Tag Archives: area 120

GameSnacks brings quick, casual games to any device

Look around on the bus, in line at a coffee shop, or even at the doctor’s office. You’ll likely see people playing games on their phones—and they’re a few of the two billion people around the world who are doing it. Unfortunately, many games (especially web games) don’t load well on low memory devices and 2G or 3G networks that hundreds of millions of people rely on.

Today, we’re announcing GameSnacks to help address this problem. Part of Area 120,Google’s lab for experimental projects, our goal is to make HTML5 games more accessible for phones on any network in the world. GameSnacks games are fast, easy to play, and available on any device that lets you connect to the internet. 

GameSnacks.png

Additionally, people in Indonesia can soon access GameSnacks games though Gojek, a leading super app in southeast Asia. Let’s explore how GameSnacks works for users and developers.

Web games are slow for many people

Take a look at how a typical web game loads on a 1 GB RAM phone on a 3G network, which is what hundreds of millions of people around the world use

Slow game.gif

Over half of mobile site visitors leave a page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load, but this game took 12 seconds. 

GameSnacks games are easy to play and fast loading

Fortunately for many users, GameSnacks games can load within a few seconds in network conditions slower than 1 Mbps, which tens of millions of people worldwide experience. For instance, Tower, a popular GameSnacks game, is quickly ready to play on the same 1 GB RAM device connected to 3G from earlier:

Fast game.gif

Our Area 120 team works with developers to achieve fast performance by reducing the size of the initially-loaded HTML page, compressing additional assets such as scripts, images, and sounds, and waiting to load them until necessary.


Next, let’s look at the design of the games. GameSnacks games are simple, fun and ideal for casual gamers. Games only last for a few minutes, and have straightforward rules that can be learned without instructions. GameSnacks games are accessible on any web-capable device. Each game supports touch, keyboard, and mouse controls and can be played on Android, iOS, and desktop devices.

GameSnacks games will be in Gojek

We’ve also partnered with Gojek to bring GameSnacks games into the Gojek ecosystem through GoGames. Gojek is a leading technology platform in Southeast Asia focused on removing life’s daily frictions. Through this partnership, we’ll deliver more accessible gaming experiences to Southeast Asian users, starting in Indonesia.

GameSnacks Gojek.jpg

Our team is always looking to add more high quality games to the GameSnacks game catalog. If you’re an HTML5 game developer interested in building fast-loading games for people around the world, please contact us

Additionally, if you develop an app that could embed GameSnacks games, please reach out. GameSnacks games can help entertain your users and increase the likelihood that they come back to your app. The presentation of the games can also be customized to feel native to your app.

When it comes to gaming, fast is better than slow. We’re excited to bring GameSnacks games to more users around the world and make gaming more accessible.

DEMAND: where live music meets data

Back in 2006—before I started working at Google—I had a hypothesis that I could use Google Trends to predict the stock market. In most instances I was wrong, but it piqued my interest and led me to a new career path experimenting with supply-demand trends: from ticketing to the car manufacturing industry. Last year I joined Area 120, Google’s lab for experimental projects, and along with drummer-turned-entrepreneur Nick Turner, we decided to test my original hypothesis in the entertainment industry.

Co-founders of DEMAND

Co-founder Nick Turner and me

Together, alongside a talented team within Area 120, we zeroed in on live music since we knew the industry still relied heavily on gut instincts, rather than actionable insights. Surely we thought, if data could transform other industries like sports, couldn’t we do the same in live music? DEMAND is our new data analytics platform for live music industry professionals, from artists to venue managers to promoters.   

Helping artists make informed decisions

When fans decide they want to attend a concert, many start looking for tickets with Google Search. So we knew we could use publicly available Google Trends data to understand what people are searching for. From there, we layered in data from YouTube and Google Play to offer a barometer for sustained interest in an artist over time. Finally, we partnered with third-party data sources, like Oak View Group, to provide historical and current pricing, all with geographic specificity in more than 200 markets. With this data, DEMAND now provides a deeper look into the live music market for more than 19,000 artists.

Flyer-front.png

See how an artist indexes against a range of consumer brands, from fashion to travel to food and more.

During months of testing, we found that the data was valuable for live music professionals and fans alike. In one example, when evaluating the tour schedule for a Top 40 artist, DEMAND's data revealed that the artist did not price their tickets at market rate, which was leading to higher prices for fans in the ticket resale market. In another case, DEMAND’s analytics identified that an artist was choosing tour stops that didn’t reflect the strongest fan interest. In both examples, artists could have made better informed decisions with DEMAND that would have allowed them to identify and reach their fans more easily. 


DEMAND’s insights also lets people see how consumer brands align with specific artists based on search volume from the last 30 days. This data can impact brand marketers, advertising agencies and media bookers who want to identify cross-promotion opportunities.

See how an artist indexes against a range of consumer brands, from fashion to travel to food and more.

DEMAND is available for everyone in the music industry

Based on our testing and insights derived from working with partners like Nederlander Concerts, we know DEMAND’s analytics can enhance the planning, pricing, marketing and sponsorship of live events. Meanwhile, music fans benefit as the most passionate fans can gain access to the artists they love in concert. Plus, venues and cities get to book the artists that locals want to see.

Additionally, we believe that DEMAND will serve as an equalizer. Even rising artists booking their own club stops and unknown venues can benefit by seeing where similar styles of artists performed well—or not so well—and at what prices. It’s our hope that DEMAND’s data will nurture the rise of these new artists while creating opportunities across the live music spectrum.

But the reality is that we don’t know all of the ways in which this data can be helpful, so we’re making DEMAND’s data—currently available at no cost—to anyone in the U.S. music industry. Interested users can sign-up to get whitelisted via https://demand.area120.com

Get creative with Tangi, Area 120’s latest experiment

Last time I went home to see my parents in Shanghai, I found them watching lots of how-to videos on painting and photography on their phone—even though I had considered them to be “smartphone challenged.” My mom has always had a creative side, and I was surprised to learn that she’s now an amateur oil painter thanks to these niche communities with quick how-to videos.

Coco's mom painting

Coco’s mom trying out new watercolor techniques and the painting up close.

I too joined some of these vibrant creative communities that make videos about cooking and fashion. I noticed something magical in these videos: They could quickly get a point across—something that used to take a long time to learn with just text and images. 

Last year, our small team within Area 120, Google’s lab for experimental projects, started building Tangi. It’s an experimental social video sharing app with quick DIY videos that help people learn new things every day. Tangi is where creative people can get new ideas and connect with other passionate people like them. The name is inspired by the words TeAch aNd GIve and "tangible"—things you can make.
Tangi

Tangi inspires people to try creative projects like art, DIY, cooking, fashion and beauty. The videos are vertically oriented on your phone.

We’ve been working with creators who already make these kinds of videos, so that Tangi can become a place where they have a voice to inspire other makers. Tangi’s focus on creativity and community is the biggest draw for them. They’ve been able to experiment with new ways to take their creativity to the next level. For example, Holly shows easy DIY projects and Rachel tells amazing stories through her portrait drawings.

Examples of what you can find on Tangi

Holly Grace shows you how to make vintage planters (left). Rachel Faye Carter invites our community to get drawn by her and an example drawing (right).

Whether you love crafting, cooking, cosmetics or clothing, Tangi has 60 second videos to help you try something new—and a place to share it back too. You can also share a re-creation of things you tried out with Tangi's "Try It” feature, which helps build a community between creators and their fans. One of our most recreated videos is making guacamole in the avocado shell.

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“Try It” within Tangi lets you share back recreations of what you made, like this Guacamole Hack from CammysKitchen.

If you’re still working on your new year’s resolution list or for thinking about Valentine’s Day, Tangi has videos about whether it’s crafting, cooking, cosmetics, or clothing! Check some of these out:

  1. Bring Boring White Candles to Life

  2. DIY Spoon Flower

  3. Pink Velvet Cake with Marbled Hearts

  4. Snowflake Craft DIY

  5. Quick style in 60 seconds or less!

Get the app from the Apple App store or go to Tangi on the web at tangi.co for some creative inspiration. We hope to see you “try out” some of our New Year’s and Valentine’s Day projects. Upload is not available to everyone yet—but you can join the waitlist.

CallJoy’s new agent helps small businesses answer calls

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


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

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

A more intelligent phone agent 

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

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

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

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

Focus on what you do best

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


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


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

Byteboard adds interviews for web and mobile engineers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byteboard adds interviews for web and mobile engineers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commute better with Pigeon, the crowdsourced transit app

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

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

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

More real-time information means better commuting

Notifications and alerts from Pigeon

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

Crowdsourced reporting in Pigeon

Ride better together with crowdsourced reporting

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

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

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

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


Touring Bird lands with Google to plan your perfect trip

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

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

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

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

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

Step up your interviewing game with Byteboard

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

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

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

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

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

Byteboard creates more effective technical interviews

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

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

A more efficient interview to save engineers time

Byteboard creates more efficient technical interviews

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

An equitable interview format to reduce bias

Byteboard creates more equitable technical interviews

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

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

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


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

Create 3D games with friends, no experience required

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

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

Built for gamers

Game Builder animation

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

Always-on multiplayer

Game Builder animation

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

No code required

Game Builder animation

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

Real-time JavaScript

Game Builder animation

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

Thousands of 3D models

Game Builder animation

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

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