Posted by Andre Tauladan on Monday, December 24, 2012
We know how important our mountain pass highways are to not only freight traffic but local ski areas – when we close, they close. We want to get the road back open to drivers (and for the ski areas) as soon as it’s safe, but right now, our crews have to take it day by day. As our maintenance supervisor Theo Donk says: “Things can change completely in three hours.”
And they have. Starting Monday night, Dec. 17, nearly 100 trees came down across the highway in less than 24 hours. It’s now been more than 48 hours, and the tally is up to at least 120 trees – and counting.
Did we mention the snow? More than 6 feet (and counting) since Friday, Dec. 14. It’s a combination that has our maintenance crews on their toes. Donk said it’s the kind of weather that makes the hair stand up on the back of his neck: Whiteout conditions, and the all-too-real threat of a large tree crashing down at any moment.
As the snow continues, larger trees are falling. Not only are limbs snapping off, entire 30-inch-diameter trees that can’t handle the added weight of the snow are coming down across the highway.
Maintenance crews are staged at the Shuksan maintenance camp and ready to tackle the trees (and the snow) – as soon as it’s safe to get out on the road. They’ve got two large excavators, an assortment of chainsaws and plow trucks all on standby, ready to clear the highway at first light.
“We’ve got what we need to do our job – now we’re just waiting to go do it,” Donk said. “We’re taking it one day at a time.”
Posted by Andre Tauladan
The North Pole air traffic control elves have just notified us that Santa has taken off! For the next day, you can visit the Google Santa Tracker to see where Santa’s headed next and keep tabs on how many presents he’s delivered. You can also keep up with him on your smartphone and tablet with the Android app, in your browser with the the Chrome extension, and even in 3D with Google Earth and Google Earth mobile (look for it in the Tour Guide feature with the latest version of Google Earth).
And follow Google Maps on Google+, Facebook and Twitter to get up-to-the-minute details on Santa’s journey around the world.
Ho ho ho! Happy holidays everyone!
Posted by Brian McClendon, VP of Google Maps and Google Earth
Posted by Andre Tauladan on Friday, December 21, 2012
|Bertha’s Twitter profile photo. More photos of her and construction in Seattle are posted |
regularly on Flickr. A 10-foot-long interactive model of Bertha is on
display at Milepost 31, the project’s information center in Pioneer Square.
For more information about the SR 99 Tunnel Project, visit www.alaskanwayviaduct.org.
Same goes for the world’s largest-diameter tunneling machine. With that in mind, leaders from the SR 99 Tunnel Project flew to Japan this week to visit Bertha, the five-story tall behemoth that will begin tunneling beneath downtown Seattle next summer.
They spent the day at the Sakai Works factory in Osaka, watching major components of the $80 million machine rotate, extend, retract and move. The goal? Make sure Bertha – whose name was chosen earlier this month as part of a contest for school-aged kids across Washington – is running smoothly before she boards a ship to Seattle.
“This machine is incredibly innovative,” said Linea Laird, WSDOT’s administrator for the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program. “Using technology like this allows us to create a new highway 99 while keeping the viaduct open to traffic.”
With so much riding on Bertha, it’s no wonder Laird and others made the long trip. Seattle Tunnel Partners, WSDOT’s contractor for the project, will authorize shipment of the machine after testing is completed next month. Crews will then prepare the machine for its eventual departure to Seattle.
They will spend the early part of next year disassembling Bertha into 41 separate pieces – the largest weighing up to 900 tons – and loading them onto a single ship. After a month-long trip across the Pacific Ocean, Bertha will land at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 46, to the west of CenturyLink Field. Crews in Seattle will transport the pieces a few hundred yards east to an 80-foot-deep pit where the machine will be reassembled and launched beneath downtown next summer.
When Bertha arrives in Seattle, she’ll bring with her plenty of excitement. But the project she’s a part of has already brought something very important to Washington: jobs. Construction to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct is boosting the local and regional economies, sustaining more than 3,900 jobs at the height of construction. Evidence of that can be found near Bertha’s launch pit, where crews are busily preparing for her arrival.
Bertha’s preparing too, according to her recently established Twitter profile. Step 1: get her travel documents in order.
“So nice to finally have an identity,” @BerthaDigsSR99 tweeted shortly after her name was announced. “Maybe now the passport agency will take my application.”
Laird and others are counting on that as Bertha’s journey to – and eventually beneath – Seattle draws closer.
Posted by Andre Tauladan in maps and earth on Thursday, December 20, 2012
We hope you’ve had a chance to try the new Google Maps app for iPhone (announced last week and available for download in the Apple App Store). The app is designed to be simple—just to work whenever you need it. Still, we have a few tips to make finding things with Google Maps even faster and easier. All the tips are collected on our site but here a few of my favorites:
- Swipe to see more. In Google Maps a wealth of information is often just a swipe away. Whether you’re looking at search results or directions, you can swipe the bottom info sheet left and right to see other options. To get more details on any of the results, swipe that info sheet upward (or just tap it—that works too). Even with the info sheet expanded, you can swipe to see those other results.
- Place a pin. Get more information about any location by just pressing and holding the map. The info sheet that pops up tells you the address, lets you save or share the place, and best of all, brings up...
- Street View. By far the easiest way to get to Street View is placing a pin. Tap the imagery preview on the info sheet to enter into Street View, then explore! I recommend the look-around feature (bottom left button) which changes what you’re looking at as you tilt and move your phone.
Posted by Vicky Tait, Consumer Operations, Google Maps
Posted by Andre Tauladan
By guest blogger Anne Broache
After some 18 months of construction, we’ll soon be finished revamping the area where Northeast 116th Street meets Interstate 405. Our goals were to improve your access to and from the highway at this interchange, and to upgrade safety for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians alike.
- New lanes and traffic signals on Northeast 116th Street and 120th Avenue Northeast
- A rebuilt bridge with additional lanes over the railroad
- A new interchange design aimed at boosting traffic flow (more on that below)
- More space for vehicles on the I-405/Northeast 116th Street on- and off-ramps, resulting in decreased merging and collision risks
- Improved lighting
- Wider sidewalks
- A continuous bike lane through the interchange area
- A new storm water pond and drainage vaults to preserve water quality
Drivers traveled through the new Single Point Urban Interchange
(SPUI) at NE 116th Street and I-405 in Kirkland on its first day of operation, Dec. 20.
This SPUI is the first interchange design
of its kind on the I-405 corridor.
How does a SPUI work?
With the new SPUI design, the on- and off-ramps converge at a single location controlled by one set of traffic signals at the center of the interchange. The signal in this case is located on the underside of the I-405 overpass.
The SPUI design increases the number of vehicles that can clear the interchange each time the light turns green for a particular stream of traffic.
Want to learn more?
This video explores the interchange’s new features so you’ll know what to expect. You can also see more photos of the construction progress at our Flickr page.
Finally, we’d like to send a special thank you to all of the Kirkland commuters who experienced the construction closures and delays while we worked to improve this interchange.
In 2007, 33-year-old Vuyile moved to Cape Town from rural South Africa in search of work. Unable to complete high school, he worked as a night shift security guard earning $500/month to support his family. During the rush hour commute from his home in Khayelitsha, Vuyile realized that he could earn extra income by selling prepaid mobile airtime vouchers to other commuters on the train.
In rural areas, it’s common to use prepaid vouchers to pay for basic services such as electricity, insurance and airtime for mobile phones. But it’s often difficult to distribute physical vouchers because of the risk of theft and fraud.
Nomanini, a startup based in South Africa, built a device that enables local entrepreneurs like Vuyile to sell prepaid mobile services in their communities. The Lula (which means “easy” in colloquial Zulu), is a portable voucher sales terminal that is used on-the-go by people ranging from taxi drivers to street vendors. It generates and prints codes which people purchase to add minutes to their mobile phones.
Today, Vuyile sells vouchers on the train for cash payment, and earns a commission weekly. Since he started using the Lula, he’s seen his monthly income increase by 20 percent.
Nomanini founders Vahid and Ali Monadjem wanted to make mobile services widely available in areas where they had been inaccessible, or where—in a region where the average person makes less than $200/month—people simply couldn’t afford them. By creating a low-cost and easy-to-use product, Nomanini could enable entrepreneurs in Africa to go to deep rural areas and create businesses for themselves.
In order to build a scalable and reliable backend system to keep the Lula running, Nomanini chose to run on Google App Engine. Their development team doesn’t have to spend time setting up their own servers and can instead run on the same infrastructure that powers Google’s own applications. They can focus on building their backend systems and easily deploy code to Google’s data centers. When Vuyile makes a sale, he presses a few buttons, App Engine processes the request, and the voucher prints in seconds.
Last month, 40,000 people bought airtime through the Lula, and Nomanini hopes to grow this number to 1 million per month next year. While platforms like App Engine are typically used to build web or smartphone apps, entrepreneurs like Vahid and Ali are finding innovative ways to leverage this technology by building their own devices and connecting them to App Engine. Vahid tells us: “We’re a uniquely born and bred African solution, and we have great potential to take this to the rest of Africa and wider emerging markets. We could not easily scale this fast without running on Google App Engine.”
To learn more about the technical implementation used by Nomanini, read their guest post on the Google App Engine blog.
Posted by Zafir Khan, Google App Engine
You can now discover Spain’s Jewish heritage on a new site powered by comprehensive and accurate Google Maps: www.redjuderias.org/google.
Using the Google Maps API, Red de Juderías de España has built a site where you can explore more than 500 landmarks that shed light on Spain’s Jewish population throughout history. By clicking on a landmark, you can get historical information, pictures or texts, and a 360º view of the location, thanks to Street View technology. You can also use the search panel on the top of the page to filter the locations by category, type, geographic zone or date.
This project is just one of our efforts to bring important cultural content online. This week, we worked with the Israel Antiquities Authority to launch the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, an online collection of more than 5,000 scroll fragments, and last year we announced a project to digitize and make available the Yad Vashem Museum’s Holocaust archives. With the Google Art Project, people around the world can also view and explore more than 35,000 works of art in 180 museums.
Read more about this project on the Europe Blog. We hope this new site will inspire you to learn more about Spain’s Jewish history, and perhaps to visit these cities in person.
Posted by William Echikson, External Relations, Europe, Middle East and Africa
Posted by Andre Tauladan in maps and earth on Tuesday, December 18, 2012
While millions of people eagerly await Christmas Day, Santa and his elves are keeping busy at the North Pole. They’re preparing presents, tuning up the sleigh, feeding the reindeer and, of course, checking the list (twice!) before they take flight on their trip around the world.
While we’ve been tracking Santa since 2004 with Google Earth, this year a team of dedicated Google Maps engineers built a new route algorithm to chart Santa’s journey around the world on Christmas Eve. On his sleigh, arguably the fastest airborne vehicle in the world, Santa whips from city to city delivering presents to millions of homes. You’ll be able to follow him on Google Maps and Google Earth, and get his stats starting at 2:00 a.m. PST Christmas Eve at google.com/santatracker.
In addition, with some help from developer elves, we’ve built a few other tools to help you track Santa from wherever you may be. Add the new Chrome extension or download the Android app to keep up with Santa from your smartphone or tablet. And to get the latest updates on his trip, follow Google Maps on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.
The Google Santa Tracker will launch on December 24, but the countdown to the journey starts now! Visit Santa’s Village today to watch the countdown clock and join the elves and reindeer in their preparations. You can even ask Santa to call a friend or family member.
We hope you enjoy tracking Santa with us this year. And on behalf of everyone at Google—happy holidays!
Posted by Brian McClendon, VP of Google Maps and Google Earth
Posted by Andre Tauladan in culture
A little over a year ago, we helped put online five manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls—ancient documents that include the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence. Written more than 2,000 years ago on pieces of parchment and papyrus, they were preserved by the hot, dry desert climate and the darkness of the caves in which they were hidden. The Scrolls are possibly the most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century.
Today, we’re helping put more of these ancient treasures online. The Israel Antiquities Authority is launching the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, an online collection of some 5,000 images of scroll fragments, at a quality never seen before. The texts include one of the earliest known copies of the Book of Deuteronomy, which includes the Ten Commandments; part of Chapter 1 of the Book of Genesis, which describes the creation of the world; and hundreds more 2,000-year-old texts, shedding light on the time when Jesus lived and preached, and on the history of Judaism.
Millions of users and scholars can discover and decipher details invisible to the naked eye, at 1215 dpi resolution. The site displays infrared and color images that are equal in quality to the Scrolls themselves. There’s a database containing information for about 900 of the manuscripts, as well as interactive content pages. We’re thrilled to have been able to help this project through hosting on Google Storage and App Engine, and use of Maps, YouTube and Google image technology.
This partnership with the Israel Antiquities Authority is part of our ongoing work to bring important cultural and historical materials online, to make them accessible and help preserve them for future generations. Other examples include the Yad Vashem Holocaust photo collection, Google Art Project, World Wonders and the Google Cultural Institute.
We hope you enjoy visiting the Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, or any of these other projects, and interacting with history.
Posted by Eyal Miller, New Business Development, and Yossi Matias, Head of Israel Research and Development Center
‘Tis the season for tree trimming, gift giving, recipe sharing and catching up with loved ones over a cup of eggnog. For families that are spread out over cities or even countries, it can be a challenge to get everyone together during the holidays. This year, we’ve teamed up with the creators of Wallace and Gromit to add a little extra holiday magic to Google+ Hangouts with a custom invitation builder and a Holiday Effects app.
Click this link to schedule your holiday family hangout and we’ll send all your invitations out with a custom Wallace and Gromit video. Since Hangouts let up to 10 people video chat at once, right from Google+ or Gmail, you can invite the whole family to join—and maybe a few friends too.
Don’t forget to put on a Santa hat, reindeer antlers or even wear Gromit’s ears by adding the Holiday Effects app to your family hangout.
Happy holidays from the Google+ and Gmail teams!
Posted by Kevin Maguire, Product Marketing Manager
(Cross-posted on the Gmail Blog)
Posted by Andre Tauladan in S.S.C English
Yesterday, the heads of Japan’s eight most popular political parties held eight consecutive Google+ Hangouts to engage with citizens across the country ahead of Sunday’s general election—arguably the largest (and longest) series of Hangouts with politicians ever! Each of the leaders held a Hangout, including incumbent Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda from the Democratic Party Japan and Shinzo Abe from the Liberal Democratic Party.
Voters asked questions that reflected the most pressing issues on the Japanese people’s minds: the ailing economy, social security and the future of energy programs. For instance, one 21-year old student asked a politician about welfare and economic self-reliance, in response to which the politician explained his vision to create more opportunities for young people.
After announcing these Hangouts on November 29, we invited citizens to upload their questions on to Google+ using the hashtag #政治家と話そう (“talk to politicians”). Ten participants representing a cross-section of voters across Japanese society—including a college student from Tokyo, a housewife from Mie prefecture, and a businessman from Shizuoka prefecture—were chosen to join the Hangouts. People who tuned in said that it gave them a chance to witness an in-depth conversation between politicians and voters up close, which is rare in Japan’s incredibly short and intense campaign season of 12 days.
These Hangouts are part of Google Japan’s effort to help voters get information about the candidates before they head to the polls on December 16. To help voters get access to information about more than 1,000 candidates and 12 political parties, we launched our Japan elections site, called Erabou 2012 (“Choose 2012”), at google.co.jp/senkyo. This site serves as a hub for all latest elections-related information, pulling together candidate profiles and party platforms. If you missed the Hangouts live, you can also watch the recordings there and on the Japan Politics YouTube Channel.
Posted by Mak Arima, Country Managing Director, Google Japan
Posted by Andre Tauladan in journalism and news
If you’re a student journalist looking to harness the power of technology to tell stories in new and dynamic ways, then the first ever Google Journalism Fellowship could help make the summer of 2013 one to remember.
We recognize the value that quality journalism plays in a functioning society and would like to help the next generation of reporters gain valuable skills and experience on the path to creating great content.
This 10-week program will give eight students the opportunity to contribute to a variety of organizations—from those that are steeped in investigative journalism to those working for press freedom around the world and to those that are helping the industry figure out its future in the digital age. Throughout, fellows will gain skills and contacts to help them as they move forward with their careers.
This program will be of particular interest to students studying data journalism, online freedom of expression or new business models for the industry.
Our partners in the first Google Journalism Fellowship are:
- Center for Investigative Reporting
- Committee to Protect Journalists
- Investigative Reporters & Editors
- Knight Foundation
- Nieman Journalism Lab
- Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism
Posted by Maggie Shiels, former BBC journalist, Google Corporate Communications
Posted by Andre Tauladan
Last January, we renewed our resolution to focus on creating beautiful, useful products that improve millions of people’s lives every day. To make the most impact, we need to make some difficult decisions. So as 2012 comes to an end, here are some additional products, features and services we’re closing:
- On January 4, 2013, we’ll be shutting down several less popular Google Calendar features. You’ll be unable to create new reservable times on your Calendar through Appointment slots*, but existing Appointment slots will continue working for one year. In addition, we’ll discontinue two Calendar Labs—Smart Rescheduler (we recommend Find a time view or Suggested times as alternatives) and Add gadget by URL. Finally, Check your calendar via sms and Create event via sms (GVENT)—U.S.-only features for creating and checking meetings by texting information to Google—will be discontinued today, as most users prefer mobile Calendar apps.
- Google Sync was designed to allow access to Google Mail, Calendar and Contacts via the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync® protocol. With the recent launch of CardDAV, Google now offers similar access via IMAP, CalDAV and CardDAV, making it possible to build a seamless sync experience using open protocols. Starting January 30, 2013, consumers won't be able to set up new devices using Google Sync; however, existing Google Sync connections will continue to function. Google Sync will continue to be fully supported for Google Apps for Business, Government and Education. Users of those products are unaffected by this announcement.
- In addition to Google Sync, we’re discontinuing Google Calendar Sync on December 14, 2012 and Google Sync for Nokia S60 on January 30, 2013. We’re also ending service for SyncML, a contacts sync service used by a small number of older mobile devices on January 30, 2013.
- The Issue Tracker Data API allows client applications to view and update issues on Project Hosting on Google Code in the form of Google Data API feeds. We’ll shut down the Issue Tracker API on June 14, 2013.
- Punchd is an app that keeps loyalty punch cards on your smartphone. On June 7, 2013, we will discontinue the Punchd Android and iOS apps, and merchants will no longer honor Punchd loyalty cards. Users can continue to earn punches and redeem rewards at participating businesses until June 7, 2013. We remained focused on developing products that help merchants and shoppers connect in new and useful ways.
*Update January 17, 2013: We'll continue to support appointment slots in Calendar for all Google Apps for Business, Education and Government customers.
Posted by Venkat Panchapakesan, VP, Engineering
Entrepreneurship is alive in South Korea. Their tradition of outstanding math and science education has fostered a strong developer culture as well as a thriving design community.
Over the past year, the Google for Entrepreneurs team has partnered with Global K-Startup, a competition aimed at finding and supporting the next generation of international-ready startups. The competition received 246 applications, and the 30 top teams were incubated and mentored. In October, venture capitalists from around the world gathered to hear pitches from the top teams and select six to go on a trip to Silicon Valley and London. The Google for Entrepreneurs team helped select the finalists, and was thrilled to host the winners at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. and at Campus London. Check out the winners:
- BrainGarden - vocabulary learning mobile application with social game feature
- Whatugot - social networking mobile application for collection and sharing favorites
- WATCHA - movie recommendation application with personal collection gallery features
- KnowRe - innovative adaptive learning solution focused on math education
- Alarmmon - mobile gaming alarm application with various character branding
- Classting - web/mobile application for classroom management and inter-class connection and collaboration
Starting in 2013, we’re growing our support of South Korean startups with the help of the technology innovation hub AppCenter, the Kstartup accelerator program, and the Korean Communications Commission. Together, we’ll bring tech entrepreneurs more community events, workshops, and contests. We’re also improving the Android and Google TV device testing library. To kick things off, Kstartup is opening applications for its new class of startups. Apply today or find out more about upcoming events and opportunities with AppCenter and Google for Entrepreneurs.
Posted by Bridgette Sexton, Global Entrepreneurship Manager
By guest blogger Al Gilson
Here’s a different story about a boat getting flipped over. No, there are no big headlines about a daring rescue at sea in this story.
Now being built near Longview, the “Sanpoil,” our new ferry vessel for the Keller Route across the Columbia River in eastern Washington reached a major construction milestone on December 11.
For the last several months, workers at the Foss Maritime boat yard have been fabricating this new ferry vessel. They began by building the frame for the car deck then pieced together the hull frame, followed by the hull plates. When that phase was completed, the center section, and two outer sections were upside-down on the shop floor.
The next move was to flip the 20,000-pound center section over. In a process that took two cranes and about 45 minutes, the 56 foot-long component was lifted up, rolled over and placed on a special cradle aboard a multi-axle trailer.
Coming up, the ship builders will attach the bow sections. (There are two “front ends” on the boat and no stern since it’s a double ended ferry. Cars and trucks will drive on and off at either end so the boat never has to turn around.) When those are connected, the center section on the trailer will be 22 feet wide and 116 feet long. That’s the maximum size that will be able to squeeze along the highways and under any overpasses as it, the two outer sections, the pilot house, and other components are towed from the boat yard to Grand Coulee Dam for final assembly early next year.
The Sanpoil should enter service in mid-2013.
|The three sections of the new “Sanpoil” ferry.|
The center section was placed on the trailer.
|Help up by the crane.|
|Being rolled over to set on the trailer.|
|The cradle and trailer under the boat.|
Posted by Andre Tauladan in maps and earth on Wednesday, December 12, 2012
People around the world have been asking for Google Maps on iPhone. Starting today, we’re pleased to announce that Google Maps is here—rolling out across the world in the Apple App Store. It’s designed from the ground up to combine the comprehensiveness and accuracy of Google Maps with an interface that makes finding what you’re looking for faster and easier.
The app shows more map on screen and turns mobile mapping into one intuitive experience. It’s a sharper looking, vector-based map that loads quickly and provides smooth tilting and rotating of 2D and 3D views. The search box at the top is a good place to start—perhaps by entering the name of a new and interesting restaurant. An expandable info sheet at the bottom shows the address, opening hours, ratings and reviews, images, directions and other information.
At the heart of this app is our constantly improving map of the world that includes detailed information for more than 80 million businesses and points of interest. Preview where you want to go with Street View and see inside places with Business Photos to decide on a table or see if it’s better at the bar. To get you there, you’ve got voice-guided, turn-by-turn navigation, live traffic conditions to avoid the jams and if you want to use public transportation, find information for more than one million public transit stops.
The world around us is constantly changing and, thanks to feedback from you, we make tens of thousands of daily updates to keep Google Maps accurate and comprehensive. Here’s a helpful hint for the new app: if you see something off, simply shake your phone to send us feedback.
To complete the Google Maps ecosystem, we’re also releasing the Google Maps SDK for iOS, and a simple URL scheme to help developers use Google Maps when building their beautiful and innovative apps.
The new Google Maps app is available for the iPhone and iPod Touch (4th gen) iOS 5.1 and higher, in more than 40 countries and 29 languages, including Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. Please note some of the features mentioned in this post aren’t available in all countries.
Visit the App Store today and download the new Google Maps app. We believe this delightful new experience is a great starting point—and we’ll continue to improve Google Maps for you, every day.
Posted by Daniel Graf, Director, Google Maps for Mobile
This is the first in a series of posts profiling Googlers who facilitate classes as part of our “Googlers-to-Googlers” program (known internally as “g2g”). The g2g community consists of a group of Googlers who are passionate about teaching, sharing and learning from one another. Regardless of role, level or location, g2g's community-based approach makes it possible for all Googlers to take advantage of a variety of learning opportunities. Our philosophy is: the best teacher you've ever had could be the one in the cube next to you. - Ed
For most people, the term “CSI” evokes images of crime scene investigators solving murder mysteries, like on the popular TV series. But I hadn’t heard of the TV show when I created the CSI:Lab at Google. This program on Creative Skills for Innovation is taught through our “Googlers-to-Googlers” (g2g) program—where Googlers teach other Googlers about topics that interest them. We don’t lift fingerprints or take down criminals, but like the show, CSI:Lab is all about reaching an end goal through brainstorming, getting your hands dirty and an “ensemble” performance.
Over the course of my travels a few years ago, I had the opportunity to observe a variety of diverse places and cultures, from Shanghai to Capetown. Experiencing dissimilar cultures allowed me to see how people from different walks of life innovate to survive and thrive, and deepened my interest in the topic of innovation. One of the reasons I was drawn to Google was its unique innovation culture. Soon after arriving here in February 2010, I began to delineate what was tangible about that aspect of the Google culture and was determined to figure out how I could immerse both myself and others in it more. This led me to think about how I could use the knowledge I gathered on innovation from my travels to teach those with different occupations and mindsets—from a salesperson to a project manager to an engineer—to think more about how to be innovative and to ignite change in a company.
In my 20 percent time, I decided to develop a class with a “lab” component to show Googlers how to “experience innovation.” I wanted to get a diverse group of people together in one room to solve challenging problems by learning from each other’s experiences, and by developing their own inner strengths. The goal was to enable Googlers to experience an approach to innovation where one learns by doing, rather than by listening.
CSI:Lab is user-centered and prototype driven. In each class, small groups are formed to answer a broad challenge that entices folks to think big—such as, “How would you change the commuting to work experience?” Participants are asked to interview potential “users” of their solutions to generate insights. After the surveys, all the ideas are posted on a white board. For example, in this case individual hi-tech jet packs or “Marty McFly” skateboards might reduce commute time and aid the environment. Ultimately, one idea is chosen and the group then develops a physical prototype (think Play-Doh and pipe cleaners) of their solution, to learn and prove how and why it is the best. Each class is intentionally made up of groups of Googlers from varying parts of the company—for example, engineering, global business, or project management—to encourage the groups to collaborate and learn from each other’s experience.
Since April 2010, I’ve been humbled to run the Lab in 37 Google offices worldwide, and about 9,000 Googlers have participated. Today, we have more than 50 Googlers who act as ambassadors for the Lab, designing and facilitating more Labs as part of the g2g program. From New York to Tokyo to Sao Paulo, the different people and cultures of each lab offer a new perspective. And CSI:Lab inspires Googlers long after the sessions are over. One Googler told me that after the Lab, he used his experience to develop a prototype for a solution to one of his team’s issues. He described how good it felt to take a risk to reach a solution, and ultimately he convinced a team of other Googlers to work with him to refine and implement his idea. Ultimately, seeing these ideas absorbed by participants and put to use within the company is what CSI:Lab is all about.
Take a peek at five tips to help you embrace the CSI:Lab spirit and add more creativity and innovation to your everyday life—whether it be at home or at the office!
- Know and own what inspires you. Understand where your inspiration comes from and do it 10x more than you do now. For example, if your inspiration comes from museums, then go to museums 10x more often; if your inspiration comes from people, talk to 10 new people each week.
- Think like a child. Be open and question everything around you. Try not to pre-judge thoughts or ideas; develop them.
- Dive into something new. Involve yourself in areas at work where you’re unfamiliar with the content and want to learn more. People are generally happy to share their knowledge and you can often teach them something too just by bringing a fresh perspective to their work.
- Play with fun and unusual materials when developing an idea. We all constantly use our computers and paper and pen, so think outside the box to get your mind flowing. Want to “prototype” a solution you’ve thought of? Grab some pipe cleaners, construction paper, LEGO figures, feathers...you name it! See how the materials inspire you.
- Invest in your physical space. Having a supportive environment can make a big difference, so learn how what types of space inspire creativity. To create a more open, playful environment, try a flexible workplace with no offices. Or, help ideas flow more freely by making lots of whiteboard space easily accessible. For example, at Google’s Mountain View campus, we’ve created our own innovation space, called “The Garage” (a nod to the iconic Silicon Valley workspace). “The Garage” is big enough for 170 Googlers to use the area to create, collaborate and experiment.
Posted by Frederik G. Pferdt, Global Program Manager for Innovation & Creativity
As 2012 comes to a close, it's time for our 12th annual Year-End Zeitgeist—an in-depth look at the "spirit of the times" as seen through the billions of searches on Google over the past year.
On our 2012 Zeitgeist website, you can explore the most popular and hottest trending search terms from around the world. This year’s site is our most global to date, with a total of 838 lists from 55 countries. We’ve also added a number of new features, including an interactive map that shows where and when some of the hottest terms spiked around the world, and a Google Zeitgeist Android app coming out later today (with an iOS version coming soon too).
For a round-the-globe tour through 2012, take a look at our video:
So what kinds of things were top of mind this year? While there are perennial themes—“what is love?” topped the list in 10 countries—it’s the unusual and surprising that caught our attention in 2012.
Global superstar Whitney Houston topped many countries’ lists as well as three of our overall trending lists—her unexpected death surprising fans around the world. From Korea, YouTube sensation PSY’s “Gangnam Style” signature dance took the world by storm, landing him the #1 spot in many countries and making his song the second most trending query of 2012. (PSY’s video became the #1 most watched in YouTube history—stay tuned for YouTube’s Rewind for more.)
Then there was the superhuman. Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner’s epic free fall jump made him the #6 globally trending person of the year, while the 2012 Olympics and its various athletes made it into almost every country’s top trends. And NBA player Jeremy Lin also rose on the charts this year, making him the #1 trending athlete globally.
People researched a breadth of other topics, too. Web users took a serious interest in threats to the open Internet, with proposals like SOPA and ACTA both finding their way to the top of many countries’ lists. The U.S. elections brought attention to the candidates and issues, not least the presidential campaigns’ most notorious political gaffes. And while it might not be surprising to see that tragic natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy ranked highly (#3 on the global trending list), it is reassuring to find searches like [donate to Sandy] spiking as well.
We hope you enjoy exploring what people around the world were searching for in 2012. It’s quite a snapshot of what makes us human: a blend of guilty pleasures and higher pursuits.
Posted by Amit Singhal, SVP & Google Fellow
Posted by Andre Tauladan in chrome on Tuesday, December 11, 2012
A few months ago we released This Exquisite Forest, a Chrome Experiment that lets you create collaborative animations using an online drawing tool. Since then, thousands of people from all over the world have contributed to the project, creating unique animations like Looking Up / Looking Down, Wine after Coffee and Animated Typography. For any of these animations, you can click the button in the lower right to add to the story and branch it in a new direction.
Today, we’d like to share The Endless Theater, a new way to wander the forest by viewing a continuous stream of different animations. In addition, now you can embed animations directly into your site or blog, so it’s even easier to share your work with the world. Just go into the lightbox view and click “Embed.”
Posted by Aaron Koblin, Creative Lab
(Cross-posted from the Chrome blog)
From time to time we invite guests to post about items of interest and are pleased to have Linzie Venegas join us today. Linzie is head of sales and marketing for Ideal Shield, a manufacturing company in Detroit, Mich. that specializes in bumper post sleeves. Based in a city forged in tradition and steel, Ideal Shield has seen great success on the web—a story Linzie tells us in this post. -Ed.
When my great-grandparents moved from Mexico to Detroit in 1917, they were looking for a better life. They had no idea that one day their grandson, my father Frank Venegas, would invent a product and start a business that would help transform their adopted hometown. Thanks to my dad’s hard work and a little help from the web, that’s exactly what Ideal Shield has done.
Ideal Shield specializes in manufacturing bumper post sleeves. You may have seen these around—they’re colorful covers that slide over the steel pipes that keep cars from running into buildings. As a young child, my first job at Ideal was to assemble mailers for potential customers. Our mailers were unique—I would place a pack of jelly beans into each envelope. Talk about a great way to get a high “clickthrough rate!” Today, I head sales and marketing for the company, and we’ve taken our family business online with phenomenal results.
We began using Google AdWords in 2004 to help potential customers find our product because many people didn’t know what it was. We were drawn to AdWords because everyone could see our ads—but we only had to pay for the customers who clicked through to our website. We also found that the leads were very qualified and had a higher close rate than leads from other sources. So far this year, for every $1 we've spent on AdWords we’ve gotten back $22. We’ve been able to have great success—without jelly beans!—using Google AdWords.
The energy we’ve put into our online presence has produced tremendous growth for our business; we’ve been able to grow our workforce by 20 percent. We’ve also focused on building our local community of Southwest Detroit. Each year we hire many interns from the local high school, Detroit Cristo Rey, and teach them skills that will last a lifetime. We’ve outfitted the junior and senior classes at Detroit Cristo Rey with Chromebooks so that they’ll have access to the power of the web anywhere, and many teachers there use the free Google Apps for Education suite with their students. This year, we were proud to hear that Detroit Cristo Rey achieved a 100% graduation rate and a 100% college acceptance rate. We also work with the Michigan Minority Business Development Council to teach other small businesses in the community the importance of an online strategy and how the web can help small businesses thrive.
My dad started Ideal with himself, my mother and a couple of laborers; today this family business has more than 35 employees and annual sales of $14 million. With help from the web, his hard work, determination and “out of the box” thinking have made Ideal a symbol of strength and renewal in Southwest Detroit. My father has always told me that if you take care of the community, the community will take care of you. Detroit is our community—it’s our heart, it’s our home. We’ve been surprised and delighted at how much the web has contributed to Ideal Shield, and we’re happy to share that success with Detroit. We can’t wait to do more!
Posted by Linzie Venegas, Head of Sales and Marketing, Ideal Shield Detroit