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Qubit the dog on the big questions in quantum computingQubit the dog on the big questions in quantum computing

Fri, 10/15/2021 - 11:00

This week we sat down for an interview with Qubit the dog, whose human Julian Kelly is one of our lead Research Scientists with Google Quantum AI. Qubit was born in 2012, right when Julian and team were first designing the qubits that now underlie Google’s quantum computers. He nearly received the honor of pressing the submit button for the team’s beyond-classical result published in Nature, but he was narrowly edged out by a human.

Qubit has never been interviewed before on such a range of technical and philosophical topics, so it was a privilege to have the opportunity -- a transcript of the discussion follows.

Thank you for taking the time to sit down for this, Qubit. Given the complexity and depth of the topic, I was hoping we could jump right in. I first wanted to ask -- where do you think we are in the “hype cycle” of quantum computing? Is this analogous to earlier hype cycles around ecommerce, AI, mobile technology or other major shifts where the hype may have led to “winters” for some time before the technology caught up and eventually surpassed the initial expectations about the significance of its impact on users and society, especially in terms on unexpected applications and feedback dynamics?

Ruff!

Okay, that makes sense, there does seem to be a certain unavoidable nature to that cycle that resolves itself naturally. But how should we consider investment in alternate veins of quantum computing research and development -- for example, while there appears to be a viable roadmap for superconducting qubits, with evidence that error suppression can scale and enable a fully fault-tolerant large-scale quantum computer within the decade, does it make sense to also explore more speculative approaches such as photonics or spin qubits?

[Licks rear left foot]

Granted, that may all shake out in time as these technical milestones prove out. What, if I may ask, has led to Google being able to publish the series of verified empirical demonstrations that it has? We’ve seen a number of exciting firsts -- the first demonstration of a beyond-classical computation of any kind on a quantum computer in 2019, the most impressive chemistry simulation on a quantum computer earlier in 2021, and most recently the first demonstration that errors can be exponentially suppressed with the number qubits. What about Google’s team or particular approach allows for this pace of breakthroughs?

[Smiles, pants amicably]

Qubit inspecting a dilution refrigerator for proper signal routing

Maybe that confidence is warranted. Of course, even if the technical path is reasonable, there are a lot of open questions about the eventual applications of quantum computing. Google’s group includes “AI” in its name -- Google Quantum AI -- so I assume you think quantum computing could eventually lead to more effective forms of machine learning? Or are you more excited about applications such as simulating chemical reactions and exotic materials, so we might develop better batteries and solar panels, or achieve efficient nitrogen fixation for farming fertilizer and save 2% of the world’s carbon emissions?

Yap, yap!

And do you subscribe to the “many worlds” hypothesis, and the notion that quantum computers’ power will come from essentially processing information in other parallel universes, or is this perhaps too far-fetched and unnecessary for understanding where the double exponential speedup, that is, “Neven’s Law,” comes from? Is a more conventional understanding all we need to grasp the implications of this new regime of compute space?

Rup [burps].

Thank you so much. One last question, and then I’ll let you go -- what’s the deal with time crystals?

[Blinks twice, then trots off to get a treat.]

Related Article

Ask a Techspert: What is quantum computing?

It sounds like something out of a superhero movie, but quantum computing could have big effects on technology. Here’s what to know.

Read Article
Qubit the dog, who likes to hang out at Google's Quantum AI campus, waxes philosophical about all things quantum computing. (And treats.)
Categories: Technology

Check out Chromebook’s new accessibility featuresCheck out Chromebook’s new accessibility features

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 13:00

With accessibility features on Chromebooks, we want everyone to have a good experience on their computer – so people can get things done, families can play together, students and teachers can learn together, and employees can work productively and efficiently, wherever they are. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, so we wanted to share a few recent and new Chromebook features that help people access information in a way that works for them.

New enhanced voices for Select-to-speak

People spend a lot of time reading on their laptop, doing things like reading news articles or reviewing school textbooks. Reading on a screen can be less than ideal for many, including people with dyslexia (an estimated 10-20% of the population), low vision, those learning a new language or people who have a hard time focusing on busy text.

With a few clicks, Select-to-speak on Chromebooks allows you to hear selected text on your screen spoken out loud. Earlier this year we added new features like controls to speed up, slow down or pause the reading voice, and to easily jump to different parts of text. Plus, you can choose to highlight the words being spoken while shading background text to help focus your attention.

Today, we’re announcing new, more human sounding voices for Select-to-speak, to help spoken text be more fluid and easier to understand. Natural voices are currently available in various accents in 25 languages with more to come.

To develop this feature, we worked with educators who specialize in dyslexia, as well as individuals with dyslexia. They shared that hearing text read out loud enhances comprehension – especially in an educational setting. By bringing natural-sounding voices to the feature, for example a local accent you’re used to, it’s also easier to follow along with the content being read and highlighted on screen.

Try it out by enabling Select-to-speak in Chromebook settings, and picking your preferred voice. Then select the text you want read out loud and press the Everything Button or Launcher Key + S.

I'm dyslexic and have ADHD and have trouble with reading/learning. You have no idea the amount of knowledge I've had to “let go of” because I simply can't navigate through the words and my attention just would not stick. I'm a great audio learner and have just discovered text-to-speech features. I’m so excited to use this tool!

- Chromebook user with dyslexia

Making Chromebooks more accessible

Over the past year, we’ve also made it easier to use, discover and customize Chromebook’s built-in accessibility features. This includes updates to the screen magnifier, like keyboard panning and shortcuts. We have also developed new in-product tutorials for ChromeVox, and we’ve introduced point scanning to make the selection process for switch users more efficient.

As a public middle school Reading & Dyslexia Specialist, accessibility tools are crucial to student success in education… stop, fast forward, and rewind help build metacognition and reading comprehension skills. Thank you for adapting to the accessibility needs of children.

- Sharon McMichael, Structured Literacy Dyslexia Interventionist (C.E.R.I.)

Become a certified Chromebookaccessibility expert

For assistive tech trainers, educators and users with a disability who want to learn more about Chromebook’s accessibility features, this summer we launched an online training program in conjunction with The Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (ACVREP). This eight-module course covers Chromebook and Google Workspace accessibility features. After completing the free course and final exam, you’ll receive a digital badge as a Chromebook Accessibility expert.

We’ll be back later this year to share more new Chromebook features.

In celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness month, learn about the new enhanced voices for Select-to-speak.
Categories: Technology

Why we should rethink accessibility as customizationWhy we should rethink accessibility as customization

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 12:00

As a Technical Writer for Google Cloud who’s worked in this industry for more than 20 years, technology has had a big impact on my life. It led me to a job that I love, and it keeps me connected to co-workers, friends and family scattered around the world.

But it also helps me to accomplish everyday tasks in ways many people might not realize. I have aniridia, a rare eye condition where the eyes are underdeveloped. Among other things, I’m light sensitive, have about 20/200 vision that isn’t correctable with lenses or surgery, and my eyes move around involuntarily.

Most people don’t realize the extent of my disability because I’m largely independent. The challenges I face on a regular basis are little things that most people take for granted — for example, I don’t experience eye contact, which means I often miss non-verbal cues. And for me, crossing the street is like a real world game of Frogger. Reading menus and shopping can be difficult. Navigating airports or locating my rideshare car can be stressful.

But I’ve used tech to create my own set of “life hacks.” I adjust the magnification of my view of a Google Doc during a meeting, which doesn’t change anyone else’s view of it. I zoom in on instructors during virtual dance classes. I regularly use keyboard shortcuts and predefined text snippets to work more productively. I do lots of planning before trips and save key navigational info in Google Maps. I take photos of menus and labels so I can read them more closely on my phone.

The technologies that help to mitigate the kinds of challenges I face don’t just benefit me, though — they benefit everyone. Features like Dark mode, Assistant, Live Caption — these benefit everyone and make their individual experiences using certain products better. And they can also support people with permanent, situational, or temporary disabilities.

The positive effect of disability-friendly design on a wider population is known as the curb-cut effect. A curb cut is a ramp built into a sidewalk that slopes down to a street. Their primary purpose is to provide access for wheelchairs, but curb cuts actually help many others, including people riding bikes, skateboards or scooters, people pushing strollers or pulling wheeled luggage, and people walking with canes or crutches. So while they were made to help people with disabilities, they actually help so many others.

There’s an important lesson to learn from the curb-cut effect, one that I think about when we are creating new technologies here at Google: If you are involved in designing, creating, selling, or supporting products and services, I challenge you to reframe accessibility as customization. Many people typically view accessibility as an extra feature of a product that is specifically for someone with a disability. But features like Dark mode or captions are really a way to customize your user experience, and these customizations are beneficial to everyone. We all find ourselves in different contexts where we need to adjust how we interact with our devices and the people around us. Design that provides a range of ways to interact with people and our world results in products and services that are more usable — by everyone.

For World Sight Day, a Googler explains why technology designers should think of accessibility features as customization that benefits everyone.
Categories: Technology

Continuous scrolling comes to Search on mobileContinuous scrolling comes to Search on mobileProduct Manager

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 11:00

At Google, we’re always exploring new ways to help people find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. Earlier this year, we launched a redesign of the Search results page on mobile for a more modern experience that’s easier to scan and navigate. Today, we’re making browsing search results more seamless and intuitive with the introduction of continuous scrolling on mobile devices. Now, when you reach the bottom of a search results page on your phone, the next set of results will automatically load with relevant information.

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While you can often find what you're looking for in the first few results, sometimes you want to keep looking. In fact, most people who want additional information tend to browse up to four pages of search results. With this update, people can now seamlessly do this, browsing through many different results, before needing to click the “See more” button.

For example, for broader, more open-ended questions like “What can I do with pumpkins?” you may want to consider more results and inspiration before deciding how to move forward. Scrolling through a wider range of results may show you tons of options you hadn’t considered, like no-carve pumpkin decor ideas for Halloween, pumpkin seed recipes that make your pumpkin worth carving and more ideas for how to make the most out of your gourd.

So for everyone with a little extra curiosity, this new Search experience is starting to gradually roll out today for most English searches on mobile in the U.S.

We’re making browsing search results more seamless and intuitive with the introduction of continuous scrolling on mobile devices.
Categories: Technology

The best of Google available on Samsung Galaxy foldablesThe best of Google available on Samsung Galaxy foldables

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 08:00

From split-screen multitasking with the power of Google Workspace apps to hands-free Duo calls in Flex mode, Google and Samsung continue to work together to create more helpful experiences on Android foldables. When we combine the helpfulness of Google’s apps and services with Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold3 5G and Galaxy Z Flip3 5G devices, a world of new possibilities unfolds.

Here are six great ways to experience the best of Google on Samsung’s latest Galaxy Z devices.

1. Enjoy entertainment with a bigger, better and bolder YouTube experience

10:25

The Galaxy Z Fold3 takes YouTube to the next level. Simply unfold to the immersive main screen and your video will quickly adapt to the larger display so you can really dive into whatever you're watching. The tablet-sized screen even hides the 4MP front-facing camera under the display allowing you to have an edge-to-edge cinematic viewing experience. If you want to follow along with a video while you cook, exercise or just lean back, you can prop your Galaxy Z Fold3 in Flex mode for a hands-free experience. And new users can enjoy four free months of YouTube Premium when they purchase a Galaxy Z Fold3 or Z Flip3 (terms apply).

2. Stay in touch, hands-free with Google Duo

10:25

Stop worrying about staying in the frame during video calls. You can set your Galaxy Z Fold3 or Z Flip3 down in Flex mode and keep your Duo calls going hands-free while staying in the picture. Step back and show off your apartment upgrade or pick up your pup and bring her in frame — all without the hassle of holding up your phone..

3. Boost productivity with split-screen multitasking and Google Workspace

10:25

With apps like Google Duo, Calendar, Chrome, Gmail and more, you can connect, create and collaborate on the Galaxy Z Fold3 right out of the box. Using the Edge panel, you can easily drag and drop apps into place so you can work across up to three apps at once – taking multitasking to the next level. Answer emails while you watch your favorite YouTube livestreams. Edit docs in real-time with colleagues while you discuss in a Meet conference call. Check your Calendar while texting with friends in Messages. Do it all at once with side-by-side multitasking, and just about anywhere with 5G.

4. Never get bored with millions of apps on Google Play

Your next big adventure awaits with millions of apps on Google Play. And with the 120Hz adaptive refresh rate on both the Galaxy Z Fold3 cover and main screen, you’ll have smooth gameplay. Earn Play Points as you use the Play Store, and redeem them for special items in games or Play Credit. Or enjoy over 800 games and apps free of ads and in-app purchases with Play Pass.

5. Record, edit and publish your next video with YouTube Shorts built in

10:25

Inspiration can strike at any time. With the Galaxy Z Flip3, you can unfold your ultra-portable content creator at the exact moment you need it. Open up YouTube Shorts in the YouTube app to quickly start recording, edit right in the app and upload with superfast 5G. And with Flex mode on the Galaxy Z Flip3, you don’t even need to worry about bringing a tripod with you: Simply fold your Galaxy Z Flip3 anywhere between 75 and 115 degrees, and you’ll be sure to capture your best angle.

6. Explore with Google and Augmented Reality

Unfold your Galaxy Z Flip3 and use Google’s augmented reality features built into some of your favorite apps to learn more about the world around you. With Live View in Google Maps, you can quickly orient yourself and know which way to go with directions overlaid right on top of your surroundings. If you come across something like a historical landmark, a cool new pair of sneakers or a menu that’s not in your native language, Google Lens can help you get more information about it, help you find where to buy it, or help you translate it. Just unfold and point.

To learn more about all of the helpful ways you can use Google on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G and Z Flip3 5G, visit unfold.withgoogle.com. And stay tuned for more as we continue to partner with Samsung to spread the news about these helpful foldable experiences.

Combine Samsung’s mobile craftsmanship with the helpfulness of Google’s apps and services and a world of new possibilities unfolds
Categories: Technology

Countering threats from IranCountering threats from Iran

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 06:00

Google’s Threat Analysis Group tracks actors involved in disinformation campaigns, government backed hacking, and financially motivated abuse. We have a long-standing policy to send you a warning if we detect that your account is a target of government-backed phishing or malware attempts. So far in 2021, we’ve sent over 50,000 warnings, a nearly 33% increase from this time in 2020. This spike is largely due to blocking an unusually large campaign from a Russian actor known as APT28 or Fancy Bear.

We intentionally send these warnings in batches to all users who may be at risk, rather than at the moment we detect the threat itself, so that attackers cannot track our defense strategies. On any given day, TAG is tracking more than 270 targeted or government-backed attacker groups from more than 50 countries. This means that there is typically more than one threat actor behind the warnings.

In this blog, we explore some of the most notable campaigns we’ve disrupted this year from a different government-backed attacker: APT35, an Iranian group, which regularly conducts phishing campaigns targeting high risk users. This is the one of the groups we disrupted during the 2020 US election cycle for its targeting of campaign staffers. For years, this group has hijacked accounts, deployed malware, and used novel techniques to conduct espionage aligned with the interests of the Iranian government.

Hijacked websites used for credential phishing attacks

In early 2021, APT35 compromised a website affiliated with a UK university to host a phishing kit. Attackers sent email messages with links to this website to harvest credentials for platforms such as Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo. Users were instructed to activate an invitation to a (fake) webinar by logging in. The phishing kit will also ask for second-factor authentication codes sent to devices.

APT35 has relied on this technique since 2017 — targeting high-value accounts in government, academia, journalism, NGOs, foreign policy, and national security. Credential phishing through a compromised website demonstrates these attackers will go to great lengths to appear legitimate – as they know it's difficult for users to detect this kind of attack.

Phishing page hosted on a compromised website

Utilization of Spyware Apps

In May 2020, we discovered that APT35 attempted to upload spyware to the Google Play Store. The app was disguised as VPN software that, if installed, could steal sensitive information such as call logs, text messages, contacts, and location data from devices. Google detected the app quickly and removed it from the Play Store before any users had a chance to install it. Although Play Store users were protected, we are highlighting the app here as TAG has seen APT35 attempt to distribute this spyware on other platforms as recently as July 2021.

Spyware app disguised as a VPN utility

Conference-themed phishing emails

One of the most notable characteristics of APT35 is their impersonation of conference officials to conduct phishing attacks. Attackers used the Munich Security and the Think-20 (T20) Italy conferences as lures in non-malicious first contact email messages to get users to respond. When they did, attackers sent them phishing links in follow-on correspondence.

Targets typically had to navigate through at least one redirect before landing on a phishing domain. Link shorteners and click trackers are heavily used for this purpose, and are oftentimes embedded within PDF files. We’ve disrupted attacks using Google Drive, App Scripts, and Sites pages in these campaigns as APT35 tries to get around our defenses. Services from Dropbox and Microsoft are also abused.

Google Sites page disguised as a Google Form to redirect to a phishing site

Telegram for threat actor notifications

One of APT35’s novel techniques involves using Telegram for operator notifications. The attackers embed javascript into phishing pages that notify them when the page has been loaded. To send the notification, they use the Telegram API sendMessage function, which lets anyone use a Telegram bot to send a message to a public channel. The attackers use this function to relay device-based data to the channel, so they can see details such as the IP, useragent, and locales of visitors to their phishing sites in real-time. We reported the bot to Telegram and they have taken action to remove it.

Public Telegram channel used for attacker notifications

How we keep users safe from these threats

We warn users when we suspect a government-backed threat like APT35 is targeting them. Thousands of these warnings are sent every month, even in cases where the corresponding attack is blocked. If you receive a warning it does not mean your account has been compromised, it means you have been identified as a target.

Workspace administrators are also notified regarding targeted accounts in their domain. Users are encouraged to take these warnings seriously and consider enrolling in the Advanced Protection Program or enabling two-factor authentication if they haven't already.

We also block malicious domains using Google Safe Browsing – a service that Google's security team built to identify unsafe websites across the web and notify users and website owners of potential harm. When a user of a Safe Browsing-enabled browser or app attempts to access unsafe content on the web, they’ll see a warning page explaining that the content they’re trying to access may be harmful. When a site identified by Safe Browsing as harmful appears in Google Search results, we show a warning next to it in the results.

Threat Analysis Group will continue to identify bad actors and share relevant information with others in the industry, with the goal of bringing awareness to these issues, protecting you and fighting bad actors to prevent future attacks.

Technical Details

Indicators from APT28 phishing campaign:

service-reset-password-moderate-digital.rf[.]gd

reset-service-identity-mail.42web[.]io

digital-email-software.great-site[.]net

Indicators from APT35 campaigns:

Abused Google Properties:

https://sites.google[.]com/view/ty85yt8tg8-download-rtih4ithr/

https://sites.google[.]com/view/user-id-568245/

https://sites.google[.]com/view/hhbejfdwdhwuhscbsb-xscvhdvbc/

Abused Dropbox Properties:

https://www.dropbox[.]com/s/68y4vpfu8pc3imf/Iraq&Jewish.pdf

Phishing Domains:

nco2[.]live

summit-files[.]com

filetransfer[.]club

continuetogo[.]me

accessverification[.]online

customers-verification-identifier[.]site

service-activity-session[.]online

identifier-service-review[.]site

recovery-activity-identification[.]site

review-session-confirmation[.]site

recovery-service-activity[.]site

verify-service-activity[.]site

service-manager-notifications[.]info

Android App:

https://www.virustotal.com/gui/file/5d3ff202f20af915863eee45916412a271bae1ea3a0e20988309c16723ce4da5/detection

Android App C2:

communication-shield[.]site

cdsa[.]xyz

Categories: Technology

Explore impossible exhibitions in 3DExplore impossible exhibitions in 3D

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 03:00

Since we launched our first Pocket Gallery in 2018, the culturally curious from all across the globe have used augmented reality to step inside our ever-growing collection of virtual galleries created with the help of our partners from around the world. From the original Pocket Gallery that united all of Vermeer’s artworks for the first time in history, to the virtual construction of lost Bauhaus buildings, Pocket Gallery has brought numerous previously-impossible exhibitions to your AR-enabled smartphone. Today, we are making the entire series of Pocket Galleries available to anyone on the web, meaning they can now be explored on desktop and on mobiles with or without AR capabilities.

Simply open your favorite browser to discover all our Pocket Galleries in 3D. Take an art tour of the world in sound, go spelunking among some of the oldest paintings known to man at Chauvet Cave, marvel at miniatures scenes from ancient India, or discover the man of contradictions in Klimt vs. Klimt.

Explore the artifacts to read about their history from our partners. Zoom-in even closer to uncover the hidden detail of the artworks, right down to the brushstrokes. In some galleries, an audio tour will also guide you through the highlights of the exhibitions.

In addition to enabling all of our Pocket Galleries on the web, we are introducing a new exhibition to the collection in collaboration with Réunion des musées nationaux - Grand Palais (Rmn-GP) in France. The curators invite everyone on a guided tour to discover maritime tales, stormy landscapes, and shores swathed in light. The exclusive exhibition features 40 marine masterpieces from the collections of the Palace of Versailles, the Louvre and other prominent European museums.

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Embark on a guided maritime journey with Rmn - Grand Palais

“The Rmn - Grand Palais and Google Arts & Culture have collaborated for a long time together in order to innovate and imagine new digital offers to expand our audiences. Showcasing some of the most beautiful masterpieces of the genre, the exhibition “Maritime Inspirations”, entirely virtual, allows you to test new ways of approaching art in augmented reality or on the web, and I am delighted that it can now be offered to the public. " says Vincent Poussou, Public and Digital Director Meeting of National Museums - Grand Palais

We hope you’ll enjoy uncovering maritime mysteries through our latest gallery, and experiencing our full collection of cultural curiosities from the new perspective of Pocket Galleries on the web.

View our collection of Pocket Galleries and start exploring them on the web at the Google Arts & Culture site or discover Pocket Galleries through augmented reality in the camera tab of the free Google Arts & Culture app for Android and iOS.

A new Google Arts & Culture feature will help you to explore impossible virtual exhibitions in 3D.
Categories: Technology

Happy 5th birthday, Google Assistant!Happy 5th birthday, Google Assistant!

Wed, 10/13/2021 - 11:00

We launched Google Assistant five years ago — and back then, it sometimes felt a bit strange to ask our devices for help. Now, digital assistants are part of daily life for millions of people around the world. In fact, Google Assistant has helped answer billions of questions, send millions of messages, make millions of recipes, set billions of reminders and much more (hands-free!).

In its early days, Assistant offered just two voices, was available on Google Home speakers in the U.S. and supported English and German on Pixel phones. Now, Assistant is available in over 90 countries in nearly 30 languages, offers 10 voices to choose from and works with more than 100 million smart home devices, including lights, security systems and thermostats.

Try asking “Hey Google, Happy Birthday” or “Hey Google, how old are you?” for a timely surprise. To continue the celebration, members of the Google Assistant team share some of their favorite features and advancements from the past five years.

Supporting more complex, contextual and helpful conversations

Dave Orr, Group Product Manager, Natural Language Processing

Google Assistant brings together all the technology Google has been building for years, from the Knowledge Graph to Natural Language Processing. One of my proudest moments working on the team was when we applied BERT, the revolutionary neural transformer invented by Google in 2018, to Assistant conversations, helping Assistant understand context and longer dialogs, making conversations more natural.

Advancing and expanding AI capabilities

Lisa Huang, Group Product Manager, Duplex

A major milestone for me was when we introduced Duplex for Google Assistant three years ago revolutionizing the ability for computers to understand and generate natural speech. It meant Assistant could make a phone call on your behalf for an appointment, find store hours or make online food orders easier. In fact, more than 600,000 reservations at restaurants and hair salons were made last month with this feature. Throughout the pandemic, Duplex made millions of calls to businesses for store hours and delivery availability, in Maps and Search.

Building a more inclusive Assistant

Beth Tsai, Director, Policy

One of the things I love most about Assistant is how intentional we’ve been about inclusivity. For example, we don’t think of Assistant as having any particular gender, which is reflected in its name. When you set up your Google Nest device, we randomly assign a voice, so you have a 50/50 chance of getting one of two voices — either the “red” voice or the “orange” voice. We don't formally designate voices as being "male" or "female," but you can think of the “red” voice as traditionally female sounding, and the “orange” voice as traditionally male sounding.

Bertrand Damiba — Group Product Manager, Language, Translation, Routines & Recommendations

I’m really proud of how our team mobilized to support and educate users around the Black Lives Matter movement through inclusive content. We also added the ability to say “Hey Google, what happened today in Black history?” and “Hey Google, what happened today in Latino history?”

Sheenam Maheshwari — Product Manager, Text-to-Speech

We’ve been working on adding Text-to-Speech voices for Google Assistant that can fluently speak and understand more than one language, even within one utterance (or code-switching) — they’ll launch in the coming days. Check out a preview of the new English-Spanish bilingual voice when you ask Assistant about Latino history. Names will even be pronounced in a more authentic Spanish accent. We’ll add support for English-Hindi and other common language pairs where code-switching often occurs later this year.

Designing a private Assistant from the ground up

Bryan Horling — Software Engineer, Privacy

A highlight from my time on the team was when we launched Guest Mode. Just say, “Hey Google, turn on Guest Mode,” and your Google Assistant interactions will not be saved to your account. Another way we’re helping users manage their data is with voice actions: You can say “Hey Google, delete my last conversation” or “Hey Google, delete everything I said to you this week” and Assistant will delete activity from your account.

Google Assistant is built to keep your information private, safe and secure. As always, users have control over how Google Assistant handles their data and the features they choose to use. You can do things like review, delete or turn off Web and App Activity, limit audio recordings or turn off ads personalization.

Creating more secure, optional personalized experiences

Nino Tasca — Group Product Manager, Speech

It was really exciting to be the first to introduce the technology that lets users teach a digital assistant to recognize their voice with Voice Match. You can choose to train Google Assistant to recognize your, your kids’ and whoever else’s voice you share a home with so everyone gets personalized responses. We built on this with Face Match, which means your device can recognize when you walk up to it and present a personalized display, or media — like your calendar or upcoming package deliveries.

Hands-free help while driving

Effie Goenawan — Product Manager, Auto

We just launched several new Google Assistant updates for cars, and I personally love that you can say "Hey Google, pay for gas" to complete your transaction from Android Auto or from your Android phone. And starting to roll out today, you can say “Hey Google, let’s drive” to access a new dashboard for Google Assistant driving mode on your phone or automatically launch it in your car via Bluetooth.

Helping families throughout their day

Brad Abrams — Group Product Manager, Family

At the onset of the pandemic, I quickly learned my family needed help keeping on track. One of my favorite productivity features is Family Bell. I use it on my smart speakers and smart displays to remind me it’s time to make dinner, or for my kids to take a break and stretch.

Building the smart home of the future

Michele Turner — Sr. Director, Product Management, Smart Home Ecosystem

One of the most exciting milestones for me was when Google and other leading tech companies came together to develop Matter, a protocol that simplifies smart homes by using one standard across the industry.

A redesigned Assistant for the phone

Luv Kothari — Senior Product Manager, Mobile

I personally enjoy calling features like Call Screen and Hold for Me where Assistant manages tasks over the phone. And our recent breakthroughs in on-device speech processing means that more requests can happen right on your Pixel, making Assistant faster and many device-level queries like “take a selfie,” “open Chrome,” “turn on flashlight” work even without an internet connection.

10:25Members of the Google Assistant team share some of their favorite features and advancements from the past five years.
Categories: Technology

These researchers are driving health equity with FitbitThese researchers are driving health equity with Fitbit

Wed, 10/13/2021 - 08:00

Under-resourced communities across the country have long faced disparities in health due to structural and long-standing inequities. Unfortunately, the pandemic has further widened many of these gaps.

Still, health equity research in digital health remains limited. To help address these issues, we announced the Fitbit Health Equity Research Initiative earlier this year to help support underrepresented researchers who are early in their careers and working to address health disparities in communities.

Over the past decade, researchers have used Fitbit devicesin over 900 health studies, in areas like diabetes, heart disease, oncology, mental health, infectious disease and more. Today, we’re awarding six researchers more than a total of $300,000 in Fitbit devices and services to support their research projects. Additionally, Fitbit’s long-time partner, Fitabase, will provide all projects with access to their data management platform to help researchers maximize study participation and analysis.

Learn more about the awardees and their research:

Improving postpartum care for rural black women

Black women in the U.S. are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth when compared to their white counterparts. And in Georgia, the disparities are more pronounced among rural populations. “As Black women who reside in Georgia, we’re more likely to die simply by becoming pregnant,” shares Sherilyn Francis, a PhD student in Georgia Tech’s Human-Centered Computing program. Her research aims to improve postpartum care for rural Black mothers through a culturally informed mobile health intervention. As part of the study, participants will receive a Fitbit Sense smartwatch and Fitbit Aria Air scale. By combining insight into physical activity, heart rate, sleep, weight and nutritional data with health outcomes, Sherilyn and her colleagues hope to shed light on ways to reduce the risk of severe maternal morbidity for Black mothers.

A look at sleep health in transgender youth

Transgender youth (ages 14-19) are at elevated risk for poor sleep health and associated physical and mental health outcomes. However, there’s no research to date that examines how medical transition and the use of gender-affirming hormone therapy impact sleep health. Jessee Dietch, PhD, who is an assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University, will analyze participants’ sleep using a Fitbit Charge 5. The hope is that the findings will highlight potential points for sleep health intervention that could lead to improved wellbeing for a community that is already at an elevated risk for poor health outcomes.

Preventing the progression of type 2 diabetes in Latino adults

The causes and complications of type 2 diabetes (T2D) disproportionately impact Latinos. Motivated by personal experiences, Rony F. Santiago, MA, is an early-career researcher at Sansum Diabetes Research Institute and manages T2D programs that support the Santa Barbara community. Rony and his team, in collaboration with researchers at Texas A&M University, aim to recruit healthy Latino participants and those with pre-diabetes or T2D who will each receive a continuous glucose monitor and a Fitbit Sense smartwatch. They hope to analyze physical activity, nutrition tracking and sleep patterns to better understand the impact these behaviors can have on blood sugar and the potential to improve health outcomes, including the progression from pre-diabetes to T2D.

Investigating how systemic racism impacts maternal and fetal health

Black and Hispanic pregnant people experience higher rates of pregnancy-related mortality in comparison to their non-Hispanic white counterparts. And Black infants are twice as likely to die within their first year of life in comparison to white infants. Toluwalase Ajayi, MD, pediatrician, palliative care physician and clinical researcher at Scripps Research is the principal researcher for this study, PowerMom FIRST, which is part of her larger research study PowerMom. PowerMom FIRST aims to answer questions about how systemic racism and discrimination may have a negative impact on maternal and fetal health in these vulnerable populations. In this study, 500 Black and Hispanic mothers will receive a Fitbit Luxe tracker and Aria Air scale. Researchers will assess participant survey data for health inequities, disproportionate health outcomes, disparities in quality of care, and other factors that may influence maternal health alongside biometric data from Fitbit devices. Data, like sleep and heart rate, will help researchers better understand the impact that systemic racism experienced by Black and Hispanic pregnant people may have on their health.

Building healthy habits in adolescents facing health disparities

Experiences of trauma, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and social inequity, are linked to poor health habits among marginalized student populations. Although there is a known relationship between unhealthy habits such as physical inactivity, poor nutrition, and socioeconomic status, there is little clarity on effective interventions. Susan Ramsundarsingh, PhD is the National Director of Research at SKY Schools, which develops evidence-based programs aimed at increasing the wellbeing and academic performance of under-resourced students. In this study, researchers will pair Fitbit Inspire 2 devices with the SKY School program, which teaches children social-emotional skills and resilience to improve health and wellbeing through tools like breathing techniques. Six hundred adolescent students will be assigned to three groups to measure the impact of the interventions on heart rate, sleep and physical activity during the 2021-22 school year.

Reducing cardiovascular disease risk factors in Hispanic families in Colorado

Hispanics have a disproportionately higher prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors relative to non-Hispanic whites, as well as higher rates of modifiable risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension. Victoria Bandera, M.S. is an exercise physiologist and early career researcher at UCHealth Healthy Hearts in Loveland, Colo., whose research aims to combat health inequities that impact the Hispanic community. Participants enrolled in the Healthy Hearts Family Program will receive a Fitbit Charge 5 and take part in a 6-month program that includes an educational series on cardiovascular disease risks, healthy behaviors and health screenings. Researchers will encourage participants, ages 13 and older, to use their new Fitbit device to monitor and modify their health behaviors, such as eating habits and physical activity. They will then analyze changes in physical activity levels, body composition and biometric variables to assess the impact of the Healthy Hearts Family Program.

For the past 14 years at Fitbit, our mission has been to help everyone around the world live active, healthier lives, and along with Google, we’re committed to using tech to improve health equity. We hope the Fitbit Health Equity Research Initiative will continue to encourage wearable research and generate new evidence and methods for addressing health disparities.

Fitbit is introducing the researchers driving health equity through the Fitbit Health Equity Research Initiative.
Categories: Technology

Using cloud technology for the good of the planetUsing cloud technology for the good of the planet

Wed, 10/13/2021 - 07:00

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on our Google Cloud blog.

Climate change is a global issue that is getting more urgent by the year, with the past decade recorded as the hottest since records began 140 years ago. The global IT infrastructure contributes to the global carbon footprint, with an estimated 1% of the global electricity consumption attributed to data centers alone.

The good news is that companies are capable of changing course and taking action for the environment. To create the world’s cleanest cloud, here’s a look at what Google Cloud has been focusing on over the past two decades.


Renewable energy and climate neutrality

Computer centers, offices, and infrastructure will continue to require a lot of electricity in the years to come. And sourcing clean energy will become all the more important for companies to pave the way for a renewable future. As the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy, Google’s mission isn’t just to use carbon-free energy internally, but to make it available to consumers everywhere.

Regular milestones reinforce this mission. In 2007, Google became the first climate-neutral company. In 2017, it became the first company compensating 100% of its energy consumption with renewable energy. Not to mention the years prior: by now, Google has invested enough in high-quality climate compensations to compensate for all its emissions since the company was founded in 1998.

Looking ahead to the future, Google recently announced its commitment to become the first major company to operate fully carbon-free by 2030. That means: 100% carbon-free energy, 24/7.


Smart and efficient data centers

Data centers play an important role in this sustainability strategy. The more efficiently they operate, the more sustainably customers can use Google Cloud solutions. Energy-saving servers, highly efficient computer chips, and innovative water supply solutions for cooling systems are just a few examples of efficiency-enhancing measures in Google’s data centers.

Google Cloud is committed to using these technologies as part of a comprehensive sustainability strategy. But it’s not enough to be efficient on paper, it must be measurable too. That’s why Google calculates a so-called Power Usage Effectiveness value. The result: on average, a Google data center is twice as energy efficient as a typical enterprise data center.


Waste prevention with a circular economy

In a circular economy, materials, components, and products are manufactured in such a way that they can be reused, repaired, or recycled. It’s based on three core principles, which Google follows: designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and promoting healthy materials and safe chemistry. In 2019, Google found a new purpose for 90% of the waste products from its global data center operations and 19% of the components used for server upgrades were refurbished inventory.


Using AI to reduce food waste

Because companies can reduce their ecological footprint with advanced technologies, Google Cloud seeks to make our tools as user-friendly as possible. Many of our solutions put a strong emphasis on sustainability.

Sustainability was a top of mind for French retail group Carrefour, for example, when it established a partnership with Google Cloud in 2018. The problem? Every year, European supermarkets throw away more than four million tons of food. That’s ten kilograms per EU citizen. To reduce food waste, Carrefour and Google Cloud started a joint project for an AI solution that enables precise forecasts for the demands for fresh products in each store. This minimizes waste, as well as costs because employees get the right information they need to fill shelves depending on the existing demand.


Working toward a sustainable future, together

Another partnership, which uses technology to drive sustainability, exists between Google Cloud, WWF Sweden and the British fashion label Stella McCartney. The fashion industry is responsible for about 20% of global water waste and 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. The result of this collaboration: a tool that gives fashion labels a better overview of their supply chains and delivers actionable insights on how to reduce emissions and waste when procuring raw materials.

Sustainable actions have a real impact on our environment, and they also require teamwork. That’s why Google Cloud develops tools and technologies that help other companies and organizations worldwide to become active and create a more sustainable future for our planet.

Find out more on our sustainability page.

Katie Brewis explains how Google Cloud tools and technologies are making the world carbon-free
Categories: Technology

We analyzed 80 million ransomware samples – here’s what we learnedWe analyzed 80 million ransomware samples – here’s what we learned

Wed, 10/13/2021 - 06:00

Leaders at organizations across the globe are witnessing the alarming rise of ransomware threats, leaving them with the sobering thought that an attack on their business may be not a matter of if, but when.

The stakes are becoming higher. Hackers aren’t just demanding money, they’re threatening to reveal sensitive or valuable information if companies don’t pay up or if they contact law enforcement authorities. For example, if you run a healthcare organization, the impact can be even more dire - as evidenced by this new report on ransomware attacks that finds attacks against hospitals have resulted in delays in tests and procedures, patients being kept longer, and even death.

One of the main challenges to stopping ransomware attacks is the lack of comprehensive visibility into how these attacks spread and evolve. Leaders are often left with bits and pieces of information that don’t add up.

VirusTotal’s first Ransomware Activity Report provides a holistic view of ransomware attacks by combining more than 80 million potential ransomware-related samples submitted over the last year and a half. This report is designed to help researchers, security practitioners and the general public understand the nature of ransomware attacks while enabling cyber professionals to better analyze suspicious files, URLs, domains and IP addresses. Sharing insights behind how attacks develop is essential to anticipating their evolution and detecting cybersecurity threats across the globe.

Of the 140 countries that submitted ransomware samples, Israel was far and away an outlier, with the highest number of submissions and nearly a 600 percent increase in the number of submissions compared to its baseline. Israel was followed by South Korea, Vietnam, China, Singapore, India, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Iran and the UK as the most affected territories based on the number of submissions to VirusTotal.

Geographical distribution of ransomware-related submissions

We saw peaks of ransomware activity in the first two quarters of 2020, primarily due to the ransomware-as-a-service group GandCrab (though its prevalence decreased dramatically in the second half of the year). Another sizable peak occurred in July 2021, driven by the Babuk ransomware family – a ransomware operation launched at the beginning of 2021 that was behind the attack on the Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department.

At least 130 different ransomware families were active in 2020 and the first half of 2021 — grouped by 30,000 clusters of malware that looked and operated in a similar fashion. With 6,000 clusters, GandCrab was the most active family - followed by Babuk, Cerber, Matsnu, Congur, Locky, Teslacrypt, Rkor and Reveon.

Activity of 100 most active ransomware families

While these big campaigns come and go, there is a constant baseline of ransomware activity of approximately 100 ransomware families that never stops. Attackers are using a range of approaches, including well-known botnet malware and other Remote Access Trojans (RATs) as vehicles to deliver their ransomware. In most cases, they are using fresh or new ransomware samples for their campaigns. This broad collection of activity provides vital insights into ransomware growth, evolution and impact on organizations of all sizes, and provides the bread crumbs needed for businesses and governments to be much more proactive in building cybersecurity into their infrastructure.

How We Are Keeping Organizations Safe From This Threat

At Google, our platforms and products have to be secure by default, and have been designed to keep organizations protected from cybersecurity attacks, including the growing threat of ransomware.

Our Chrome OS cloud-first platform has had no reported ransomware attacks — ever — on any business, education or consumer Chrome OS device. Developed with built-in and proactive security, Chrome OS blocks executables that ransomware often hides in, and system files are kept in a read-only partition ensuring the OS can’t be modified by apps or extensions. Additionally, the cloud-first nature of Chrome OS means that your data and files are backed up in the cloud and recoverable if an attack were to happen.

We are committed to offering the industry’s most trusted cloud, and have developed solutions that help companies adhere to the five pillars of NIST’s Cybersecurity Framework - from identification to recovery. For example, our Cloud Asset Inventory helps businesses identify and monitor all their assets in one place. With email at the heart of many ransomware attacks, Google Workspace’s advanced phishing and malware protection provides controls to quarantine emails, defends against anomalous attachment types and protects from inbound spoofing emails. Chronicle, Google Cloud’s threat detection platform, allows businesses to find and analyze threats faster within their infrastructure and applications, whether that's on Google Cloud or anywhere else. With engineered-in capabilities and additional solutions, we also make it simple and efficient to respond and recover in the event of an incident.

With better data from crowdsourced intelligence platforms like VirusTotal, decision makers can proactively ensure a more robust range of security solutions are implemented, and that multi-layered approaches to security become standard across all organizations. It’s the only way to keep our businesses, schools, hospitals and governments safe against ransomware attacks.

To learn more about how Google can help your organization solve its cybersecurity challenges check out our Google Cybersecurity Action Team.

Categories: Technology

Meet the Googler championing startups in AfricaMeet the Googler championing startups in Africa

Wed, 10/13/2021 - 06:00

Onajite Emerhor sits in her living room in Lagos, Nigeria, where she has been working since the start of the pandemic. “I did my hair and makeup myself this time,” she jokes, as she sits down with The Keyword for an interview about the blossoming startup scene in Africa and her role as Head of Google for Startups Accelerator Africa.

It’s been an exciting few months for Onajite and her team. They had been preparing for the Google For Africa virtual event that took place on October 6, where alongside other big announcements, they unveiled the 50 startups who received the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund in Africa.


First, some background

It’s no secret that, despite the growth of investment in Africa, startups still struggle to land venture capital. And a lot of that money goes to non-African expatriates on the continent. In fact, in 2020, 82% of African startups reported difficulties in accessing funding.

The Google for Startups Black Founders Fund in Africa invests $3 million to fund startups on the continent, providing 50 startups in Africa with up to $100,000 in equity-free cash awards. The winners also receive up to $220,000 in Google Ad Grants and Cloud credits, as well as mentorship, technical and scaling support from Google. Applications for this year’s awards opened in June 2021, and after months of review, 50 founders have been selected for the program.

According to Grow for Me founder Nana Opoku Agyeman-Prempeh, one of the Fund’s recipients, international interest in the startup scene should hopefully prompt investors on the ground to take notice: “If Google is paying attention to African startups, local investors should be paying attention as well.”


The challenges, according to the founders

Different industries have different challenges. One big area of growth for African startups is the agricultural technology field (or “agritech”). However, Nana Opoku says that the difficulties in raising agritech capital can often come down to educating investors about the impact technology can have on the farming industry.

There’s also an additional barrier to funding as a female entrepreneur in Africa. Medsaf founder Vivian Nwakah, another Fund recipient, reflects that this is no easy task: “As a Black and female founder, I have had to work a thousand times harder and do so much more to prove myself in comparison to some of my counterparts. When you look at what I had to have ready and the numbers I had to show to even get a $5,000 check, compared to my male counterparts, there is a huge disparity.”

A lot of it also comes down to investor confidence. While it’s common in the United States to raise money simply based on an idea, Tatenda Furusa of Imali Pay, a founder and recipient of the Fund, says that’s not the case locally: “In Africa, that experience is not enough to convince investors, and the journey to access funding has not been easy.”


The future of the startup scene

The startup scene in Africa is growing every day, but there are still some big shifts that need to happen to sustain it — from building investor confidence, to creating an ecosystem where startups are set up to succeed. As Onajite points out, “startups are critical to socioeconomic development and progress across so many sectors, from farming to healthcare. The startup ecosystem also needs continued growth and funding for tech hubs, accelerators and incubators, and ongoing interest and investment from tech companies like Google.” Attracting and training digital talent in the continent also remains a challenge, as well as internet accessibility and connectivity.

Despite these hurdles, Onajite remains hopeful for Africa's startup scene: “We’re seeing progress. And with continued global and local support, big ideas and new products will continue to follow.”

The Keyword speaks to Onajite Emerhor, Head of Google for Startups Accelerator Africa, about the burgeoning startup scene in Africa and where the most exciting innovation is happening.
Categories: Technology

A Googler’s impact on future Latino leadersA Googler’s impact on future Latino leaders

Wed, 10/13/2021 - 04:00

Welcome to the latest edition of “My Path to Google,” where we talk to Googlers, interns and alumni about how they got to Google, what their roles are, and career tips.

Today’s post is about Monica Silva-Gutierrez, who shares how great mentors and mindfulness can sustain a professional journey, and how she is honoring Hispanic Heritage Month.

What do you do at Google?

I lead strategy and operations for the Core Systems and Experiences team at Google, which is responsible for making sure our products are always working and delivering the best possible user experience.

What was your path to Google?

I grew up in a small town in Texas along the Mexican border. My mom was a farm labor and women’s rights activist, and my dad was a salesman. Right after college — I attended a “Hispanic-serving” institution in San Antonio — I worked as a political advisor and scheduler for former United States President Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign, which helped me land a full-time position in his administration. In that role, I got to travel the entire world and experience many different cultures. While incredibly rewarding, it was pretty exhausting. So I took an intentional pause and spent time living in a meditation ashram in upstate New York, where I learned the art of yoga and mindfulness. From there, I entered the nonprofit world and focused on campaign finance reform. Through this work, I met my lifelong sponsor — a long-time Googler who encouraged me to apply to a position here. And now, here I am, six years later.

Monica in 3rd grade.

Outside of your core role, you are a leader in the Hispanic community at Google, specifically working with Latino leaders. Can you tell us about that?

I helped create Google’s first Latinx Leadership Council, to show that “if you can see it, you can be it.” We work to promote visibility and encourage our Latino leaders to advocate for the inclusion, advancement, and representation of Hispanic and Latino Googlers across the globe. This past year, I launched mentorship and sponsorship programs to elevate emerging Latinx leaders, including helping them prepare for promotion and look for stretch opportunities. So far, we have supported 80 emerging leaders. It’s early days, but we are really proud of the progress we have made.

Monica, Second from left, at the Latinas@Google summit 2019 with the steering committee.

What are you doing to celebrate Hispanic culture this month?

I am trying to slow down more. One of the things I appreciate most about my Mexican heritage is that before you get any work done, you talk to people, you sit down, you understand and ask questions about loved ones. You make a connection. As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, I am reminding myself of this and prioritizing human connection in my day-to-day interactions.

Monica and her family on a hike.

Any tips for other aspiring Googlers?

Seek out great sponsors — people who will advocate for you and help you see opportunities. And when someone takes a chance on you, pay it forward. Someone who saw my value and understood how that would benefit the tech sector referred me to Google. Now, I dedicate time to supporting others who, like myself, may have grown up in a small town in Texas, and might feel that a company like Google is a bridge too far. As you move forward, continue to build a network of champions to help you solve problems and navigate the inevitable bumps in your career.

And, always remember to breathe.

Monica Silva-Gutierrez shares how great mentors can sustain a professional journey, and how she’s honoring Hispanic Heritage Month.
Categories: Technology

Bringing new life to Swedish endangered animals using ARBringing new life to Swedish endangered animals using AR

Tue, 10/12/2021 - 23:00

According to the UN, more plants and animals are threatened with extinction now than in any other period of human history — approximately 1 million species globally. The accelerating pace of extinction is an urgent matter, and at this week’s UN biodiversity conference representatives from countries all over the world are coming together virtually to set out a plan for how to combat the challenge of better protecting our endangered ecological ecosystem.

Sweden, which is home to much of the iconic wildlife in the northern hemisphere — from moose and bears to reindeer and wolverines— currently has 2,249 threatened species, according to the IUCN Red List. Each of these animals plays a vital role in the ecosystem we are all a part of, yet according to a recent study by Kantar Sifo, 30% of Swedes don’t believe or know if there are animals currently at risk of becoming extinct in Sweden.

Meet five endangered species in 3D

Today, in collaboration with the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, and in an effort to raise awareness of endangered animals, we are bringing five new Swedish endangered species to Search in augmented reality. Now, by simply searching for the lynx, arctic fox, white-backed woodpecker, harbour porpoise or moss carder bee in the Google App and tapping “View in 3D”, people from all over the world will be able to meet the animals up close in a life-size scale with movement and sound.

Experts from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation have selected these specific animals for their varying types of reasons for endangerment in the country and relevance to certain types of habitats, based on the IUCN’s Red List. The white-backed woodpecker and the harbour porpoise (in the Baltic sea) are “critically” endangered, with only a few individuals left of each species. The arctic fox has an “endangered” threat status due to its decreasing population, and the lynx and the moss carder bee are considered “vulnerable” - meaning that their natural habitats need to be protected for these species to be able to continue to reproduce in the wild. These animals also exist in other regions and outside of the Nordics, with varying threat levels from none to urgent.

Reasons for endangerment
  • The white-backed woodpecker is affected by logging
  • The harbour porpoise is affected by toxins and noise pollution
  • The arctic fox’s habitat is at risk due to climate change
  • The lynx is affected by traffic and illegal hunting
  • The moss carder bee is contending with a decreasing number of flowers

Preserving endangered animals is a complex effort that requires collective action. Everyone can do something, and by launching this new Search experience we hope that we can help people in and outside of Sweden learn more about the issues at hand and experience some of nature's beloved creatures up close.

Whether you want to take a photo with the arctic fox or teach your family about the moss carder bee, the #Google3D animals are available for anyone to try out starting today through Google Search.

In collaboration with the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, and in an effort to raise awareness of biodiversity and endangered animals, we are bringing five new Swedish endangered species to the Search AR experience.
Categories: Technology

Walk the Great Wall of ChinaWalk the Great Wall of China

Tue, 10/12/2021 - 20:00

As the largest man-made structure in the world, the Great Wall of China is one of the most iconic and popular heritage sites anywhere. Over 10 million people visit each year—but not everyone has the opportunity to see the Great Wall first-hand.

Today, in collaboration with renowned Great Wall expert Dong Yaohui and curators from Gubei Water Town, Google Arts & Culture presents a new theme page enabling people to visit the Great Wall virtually. "Walk the Great Wall of China" includes an exclusive 360-degree virtual tour of one of the best-preserved sections, 370 images of the Great Wall in total, and 35 stories that dive into fascinating architectural details. It’s a chance for people to experience parts of the Great Wall that might otherwise be hard to access, learn more about its rich history, and understand how it’s being preserved for future generations.

The "Heavenly Ladder" leads to the Fairy Tower. Stretching upward along the abrupt mountain ridges, the narrowest part is just half a meter wide. It is not open to the public.

Check out the full exhibit — but as a teaser, here are five things you should know about the Great Wall of China.

1. The complete length is about 20,000 kilometers

The official length of the Great Wall is 21,196.18km, about one and a half times the distance from Los Angeles to Singapore — currently one of the longest flights in the world! Walking the full distance would take you approximately 17 months.

The "Watching-The-Capital Tower".

2. It took over 2,000 years to construct

The Great Wall as we know it today was built over the course of five dynasties. The first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, took the remnants of ancient fortifications, walls, and earthworks and linked them into a unified wall around 220 BC. Because of climate conditions and human activities, a third of this UNESCO World Heritage site — approximately 2,000km — has already disappeared. Still, many sections of the wall are being restored as we speak — see for yourself by taking a hike now.

3. It’s not just a wall — it’s a whole defense structure.

The Great Wall is not a single-structured wall. It includes beacon towers, barriers, barracks, garrison stations and fortresses along the walls. Together, they form an integrated defense system.

“Walk the Great Wall of China” includes a feature on the western starting point of the Great Wall during the Ming Dynasty. Tragically, all that remains today is a lonely earthen mound.

The “First Pier of the Great Wall” — its western starting point during the Ming Dynasty.

4. Some of the bricks contain hidden signatures

Many bricks on the wall bear Chinese characters that are actually signatures. Most of these text bricks are from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), when they were used as a quality-tracking method. The texts contain key information such as the production location, the brick household name and the responsible officials.

5. A Chinese unicorn can be found on the Simatai section

On the ​​Simatai section of the Great Wall, there is a special tower with a hidden gem on its upper floor. A large screen wall made of 15 square bricks is carved with a mysterious, eye-catching animal from Chinese mythology, called Kirin (or Qilin). Over hundreds of years, the tower has been eroded, but you can still admire this auspicious symbol.

Want to learn more? Visit “Walk the Great Wall of China”, or download Google Arts & Culture’s Android or iOS app.

A new Google Arts & Culture exhibit enables people to experience the Great Wall of China virtually.
Categories: Technology

Restor helps anyone be a part of ecological restorationRestor helps anyone be a part of ecological restoration

Tue, 10/12/2021 - 18:00

In the face of a rapidly warming planet, protecting and restoring the world’s ecosystems is critical for safeguarding the biodiversity we all depend on and for helping us adapt to a changing climate. In addition, restoring ecosystems around the world has the potential to draw down about 30% of accumulated global carbon emissions and is key to limiting the worst effects of climate change. But where do we start and how?

How Google technology helps unlock ecological insights

As part of their work to better understand the relationship between ecological systems and climate change, professor Thomas Crowther and scientists at ETH Zurich’s Crowther Lab analyzed 78,000 images of tree cover and applied machine learning (ML) models to predict where trees could naturally grow. The findings revealed a thrilling opportunity: outside of urban and agricultural areas, there are approximately 0.9 billion hectares of degraded lands worldwide that could potentially support an additional trillion trees. The discovery catapulted restoration into the headlines, and Crowther Lab saw a need to support new and existing restoration projects by bringing together practitioners and scientists to form a global network — and to make the movement accessible to the public.

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The result is Restor, which launches this week. Founded by Crowther Lab and powered by Google Earth Engine and Google Cloud, Restor allows anyone to analyze the restoration potential of any place on Earth. When you outline a given area on the Restor map, it will show you data on local biodiversity, current and potential soil carbon, and other variables like land cover, soil PH and annual rainfall. With this information, anyone can better understand their local environment and become a restoration practitioner. The platform connects practitioners, facilitates the exchange of information, and makes projects visible to potential funders and the public.

Designers, animators and creative technologists from Google Creative Lab helped design and develop the platform. Additional support, in the form of a $1 million grant from Google.org, is helping the Restor team test new ways to monitor ecosystem restoration progress by collecting data on indicators such as tree size and density, soil moisture, and vegetation structure from various restoration projects currently underway. Insights from this data will help Restor’s machine learning models deliver more accurate ecological insights, monitor project development, enable early intervention in at-risk areas, and help restoration organizations learn from one another.

Working together to expand the global restoration movement

Restor is making essential scientific data and high-resolution satellite imagery openly accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world with an internet connection. As the effort to invest in and support ecosystem restoration grows, we want to make sure that everyone can effectively measure progress. To do that, there needs to be sector-wide standards for tracking restoration metrics, such as the quantity of vegetation and soil carbon, native species abundance and survival rate. To support standardization, Google.org is granting $500,000 to Climate Focus to support the Global Restoration Observatory, which will bring together leading data providers, think tanks and restoration experts to do just that.

To protect and reverse the degradation of billions of hectares of ecosystems, we all need to get involved. Through our support for organizations like Restor and Climate Focus, we hope to empower a global restoration movement and make it possible for groups and individuals everywhere to heal our planet.

Restor is accelerating the environmental restoration movement by connecting everyone, everywhere to local restoration.
Categories: Technology

How Google Workspace is helping the RSPCAHow Google Workspace is helping the RSPCA

Tue, 10/12/2021 - 07:00

For nearly 200 years, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has worked to ensure that animals of all kinds, from household pets to livestock and animals in sport, have a good life. It is an extraordinary mission that involves 1,400 people, including around 270 inspectors and 100 animal rescue officers across England and Wales. Together they rescue animals in distress, investigate suspected incidents of cruelty, place animals in new homes, train volunteers, and educate the public about suitable animal care.

Last year, the RSPCA’s dedicated frontline team handled over 1.2 million phone calls, investigated more than 140,000 suspected incidents of cruelty, found homes for over 29,000 animals and secured over 1,400 convictions for abuse. They also coordinated a network of 150 branches in England and Wales, along with 56 regional and branch animal centres, plus animal hospitals, clinics and wildlife centres. It's a mammoth task.

We're proud that for over nine years the RSPCA has relied on Google Workspace to help coordinate this work. Clear communication and collaboration, wherever it's needed, takes many forms. Workspace helps with everything from email and video calls, to collaborative documents and spreadsheets, slides and other visual tools for education. This is available from wherever it’s needed, whether via desktop, laptop, or mobile device. The RSPCA has even trialled new digital rehoming initiatives, which use video conferencing via Google Meet to virtually visit the new homes of animals that have been rescued. It does what technology does at its best: focus on the human need, and the human connection.

During the COVID lockdown, Workspace became an even more critical tool for the RSPCA, enabling virtual experiences in place of face-to-face staff interactions, volunteer and staff onboarding and check-ins with people who were caring for rescued animals. That's how tens of thousands of animals could be looked after despite the lockdowns, and how more than 500 RSPCA meetings could take place every day in 2020.

“Our strategic mantra is ‘Together for animal welfare’. Everyone in every department is all working towards that same goal,” says Alan Moynihan, Head of IT Customer Solutions at the RSPCA. Workspace, he says, is "a system that gives us effective collaboration and communication tools without geographical boundaries.”

Some of those tools, like Chromeboxes and Chromebooks, complement Workspace while reducing hardware costs, improving team coordination and enabling Alan Moynihan and his IT staff to better control software creation and management. Android and iOS mobile devices give field workers like inspectors and animal rescue officers instant access to files they need in the field.

We stand in admiration of the dedication of the thousands of people involved with the RSPCA and are proud that solutions like Google Workspace help them continue to do this critical work.

Categories: Technology

Helping companies tackle climate change with Earth EngineHelping companies tackle climate change with Earth Engine

Tue, 10/12/2021 - 07:00

Recent wildfires, floods and other natural disasters remind us that everyone has to take action to move the needle on climate change — from scientists and researchers to governments at all levels and businesses of all sizes.

Google Earth Engine combines satellite imagery and geospatial data with powerful computing to help people and organizations understand how the planet is changing, how human activity contributes to those changes and what actions they can take. Over the past decade, academics, scientists and NGOs have used Earth Engine and its earth observation data to make meaningful progress on climate research, natural resources protection, carbon emissions reduction and other sustainability goals. It has made it possible for organizations to monitor global forest loss in near real-time and has helped over 160 countries map and protect freshwater ecosystems.

Today, we’re expanding Earth Engine with a commercial offering for select customers in preview as a part of its integration with Google Cloud Platform. Organizations in the public sector and businesses can now use insights from Earth Engine to solve sustainability-related problems, such as building sustainable supply chains, committing to deforestation-free lending, preparing for recovery from weather-related events and reducing operational water use. To learn more about how Earth Engine can help your organization meet its sustainability goals,fill out this form.

Surface water change visualization enabled by Earth Engine (shown here: Aral Sea from 1984-2020).

This new offering puts over 50 petabytes of geospatial open data into the hands of business and government leaders. Google Cloud customers and partners can bring together earth observation data with their own data as well as other useful datasets, train models to analyze at scale, and derive meaningful insights about real-world impact. By combining Earth Engine’s powerful platform with Google Cloud’s distinctive data analytics tools and AI technology, we’re bringing the best of Google together.

Already, businesses and organizations across the public sector, agriculture, financial services and consumer goods industries are using insights from this data to improve their operations, better manage and mitigate their risks while also preserving natural resources. For example, consumer goods company Unilever plans to achieve a deforestation-free supply chain for palm oil and other commodities by 2023. With insights from Google Earth Engine and its internal supply chain sourcing information, they can model the source of palm oil to their mills. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also using Earth Engine to eliminate the overhead of managing vast amounts of geospatial data. This will enable their agency, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, to focus on the analyses of 315 million acres of croplands across the United States. We look forward to seeing more impactful use cases and quantifiable progress towards sustainability goals that Earth Engine will continue to power across organizations.

The time for businesses to act on climate is now, but the advanced analytics resources and sustainability knowledge needed to make change can be hard to access. To make sure businesses can make the most out of Google Earth Engine, we’re working with partners, like NGIS and Climate Engine, to help businesses identify and manage risks related to climate change.

It will take all of us working together to make a difference. Earth Engine will continue to be free for scientists, researchers and NGOs, just as it has always been. We hope that putting Google Earth Engine into the hands of more businesses, organizations and people will multiply the positive impact we can have together on our people and planet.

Google Earth Engine is now available to select customers in preview as a part of Google Cloud Platform.
Categories: Technology

Celebrating Black History Month in the UKCelebrating Black History Month in the UK

Tue, 10/12/2021 - 03:00

Each year we celebrate Black History Month in the United Kingdom through the month of October. It’s a time for learning, reflecting on and celebrating the impact of Black heritage and culture. To support the importance of learning about our shared histories, today we are launching over 80 new stories in collaboration with a range of cultural partners across the UK; from Bristol to Liverpool, Manchester to London.

The Black and British hub on Google Arts & Culture has been created alongside contributing partners, many of whom are coming online for the first time. This includes Bristol Museums, National Museums Liverpool, andFar From the Norm joining our growing collection of cultural institutions to share their stories from across the UK.

From football, to photography, and statues to sound systems

You can discover a range of new, young talents making waves across disciplines from dance, photography and sport. Find out about the community response to the nowiconic mural of Marcus Rashford MBE in Withington, Manchester, or discover more about award-winning choreographer, director and dance artist Botis Seva’s company and seminal production BLKDG. Or get acquainted with a host of stunning creatives like the powerful, colourful photography of artist Tayo Adekunle and the five talents selected by photographer and creative champion Misan Harriman in the second installment of his series Black Lenses Matter.

You’ll find stories covering prominent events in British history like the Empire Windrush and more recent events such as the Colston statue in Bristol. This is in addition to profiles on influential figures such as Carnival pioneer Claudia Jones and broadcaster and poetUna Marson. Why not take a moment to learn about the story of Princess Campbell, a Bristol nurse? Or perhaps explore the garden of Sybil Phoenix OBE, the first Black British woman to receive an MBE?

And if you are suffering from Notting Hill Carnival withdrawals, take a deep dive from your living room into the Mas bands, sound systems and steel bands who make Carnival the vibrant, sonic experience it is today.

There’s so much more to explore on the Black & British hub on Google Arts & Culture from today.

Visit g.co/blackhistoryuk, or download Google Arts & Culture’s Android or iOS app

In celebration of Black History Month this year, Google Arts & Culture are shining a spotlight on the many people across generations, regions and disciplines making their impact unique on British culture.
Categories: Technology

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