January is fast approaching—and that means it’s almost time for New Year’s resolutions, even though most people seem to abandon them about a week into the new year. But if 2019 is the year you want to stick to your goals, you may want to get a head start. In fact, our New Year’s resolution is to make it easier for you to get healthy, and have fun doing it. Here’s how you can put health and wellness first in 2019, with a little help from Google.
Step 1: Get in the game.
Go to the Google Fit app to join a 30-day challenge designed to kick-start your journey to a healthier, more active life. The challenge begins on January 1, but you can sign up starting today (running shoes optional). You’ll earn Heart Points from activities that you log or actively track with Google Fit. Better yet, Google Fit will automatically detect and log walks, runs or bike rides for you. Your goal is to get as many points as possible—and we’ll be cheering you on along the way.
Step 2: Learn the ground rules.
You’ll score Heart Points for any activity that gets your heart pumping. Get one point for each minute of moderate activity, like picking up the pace while walking your dog, and double points for more intense activities like running or kickboxing. Hit 150 Heart Points per week to meet the American Heart Association (AHA) and the World Health Organization (WHO)’s physical activity recommendations shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, improve sleep and increase overall mental well-being.
Step 3: Get moving.
We hear you: It’s tough to get motivated when it’s cold outside. Here are some ways you can earn Heart Points while you’re going about your winter routine:
- Want to involve the whole family? Go sledding with your kids and earn double Heart Points.
- Skip the snowblower and grab a shovel. Extra points if you do your neighbor’s yard, too.
- You’ll probably make a hot cocoa run at some point. Park at the farther end of the lot and squeeze in a brisk walk.
- If you find yourself on the mountain this winter, skiing and snowboarding are all intense activities that can earn you double Heart Points.
- If the hot cocoa didn’t warm you up, catch a spin class and earn a Heart Point for every minute you’re on the bike.
Step 4: Find a buddy.
For more inspiration, we’ve teamed up with 36 influencers from nine countries around the globe to show us how they’re earning their Heart Points. Follow #GetFitWithGoogle on Instagram and YouTube to see how others are tackling the challenge, or share your own tips and tricks on how you #GetFitwithGoogle with your favorite Heart Points workout.
Are you up for the challenge? Sign-up today in the Google Fit app. If you’re new to Google Fit, try it here to start the year right with Fit.
This year, more than 100,000 nonprofits around the world connected with their communities and spread awareness about their causes using Google products. As 2018 comes to an end, we’re taking a look back at the many ways these organizations used technology to make a difference.
DonorsChoose.org drives donations with Google Ad Grants
As the leading platform for giving to public schools, DonorsChoose.org allows teachers across America to bring their classroom dreams to life by requesting much-needed materials and experiences for their students. Google Ads’ ad performance data provides the organization a clear picture of teachers’ classroom needs and donor interest. And conversion tracking data allows DonorsChoose.org to make sure they’re using their Ad Grants account to the fullest. Through Ad Grants ads, the organization drove 7,000 teacher registrations and raised an additional $497,000 from about 5,000 donations in a year.
Raising money for Hope for Paws with YouTube Giving
Hope for Paws, a nonprofit animal rescue group, used YouTube Giving Fundraisers (beta) so that anyone could support them by clicking the “Donate” button on their videos. Through this feature, Hope for Paws was able to raise over $260,000 in September and tell their story to a global audience.
Using mapping tools at the Geo for Good summit
In October, the Google Earth Outreach team hosted the Geo for Good Summit. At the summit, Googlers and nonprofit partners demonstrated how Google mapping tools—like Google Earth, Earth Engine, Google Maps Platform and 360 Street View Imagery—can help organizations raise awareness, whether it’s through mapping and monitoring threats to the planet or mapping indigenous culture.
Expanding reach with Google Maps Platform credits
Organizations like iNaturalist, Code.org and charity:water use the Google Maps Platform to help them reach their goals—from using Maps as a new way for donors to view exactly where their dollars go, to helping people discover plant and animal life from around the world. In 2018, we expanded access for nonprofits to use these products in over 50 countries.
Collaborating with G Suite: Samasource and the California Academy of Sciences
This year, Samasource and the California Academy of Sciences presented at Cloud Next ’18 about how they used G Suite to make a difference. Samasource, a nonprofit organization that aims to reduce global poverty by connecting unemployed people in impoverished countries to digital work, connected its teams through G Suite for Nonprofits. By streamlining workflows across multiple locations, the Samasource team was able to focus on their goal of helping over 45,000 people out of poverty.
The California Academy of Sciences highlights biodiversity research and exploration, environmental education and sustainability across the globe. At no cost, G Suite for Nonprofits helped the Academy improve accessibility and collaboration across their team. Now, 650 staff members at the Academy can store, search and access shared content from anywhere.
Looking ahead to 2019
Let us know how Google for Nonprofits has made a difference for your nonprofit. In 2019, we’ll be traveling around the world to film a video with five different nonprofits. If your organization has benefited from using Google products, share your story here and you could be one of them.
Posted by Julia Chen Davidson, Head of Partner Marketing, Google Home
We recently launched the Google Home Hub, the first ever Made by Google smart speaker with a screen, and we knew that a lot of you would want to put these helpful devices in the kitchen—perhaps the most productive room in the house. With the Google Assistant built-in to the Home Hub, you can use your voice—or your hands—to multitask during meal time. You can manage your shopping list, map out your family calendar, create reminders for the week, and even help your kids out with their homework.
THE CAMERA: IT’S NOT JUST FOR SELFIES & SUNSETS
My most recent camera roll runs the gamut from the sublime to the mundane:
There is, of course, the vacation beach pic, the kid’s winter recital, and the one–or ten–obligatory goofy selfie(s). But there’s also the book that caught my eye at a friend’s place, the screenshot of an insightful tweet and the tracking number on a package.
As our phones go everywhere with us, and storage becomes cheaper, we’re taking more photos of more types of things. We’re of course capturing sunsets and selfies, but people say 10 to 15 percent of the pictures being taken are of practical things like receipts and shopping lists.
To me, using our cameras to help us with our day-to-day activities makes sense at a fundamental human level. We are visual beings—by some estimates, 30 percent of the neurons in the cortex of our brain are for vision. Every waking moment, we rely on our vision to make sense of our surroundings, remember all sorts of information, and explore the world around us.
The way we use our cameras is not the only thing that’s changing: the tech behind our cameras is evolving too. As hardware, software, and AI continue to advance, I believe the camera will go well beyond taking photos—it will help you search what you see, browse the world around you, and get things done.
I’ve spent the last decade leading teams that build products which use AI to help people in their daily lives, through Search, Assistant and now Google Lens. I see the camera opening up a whole new set of opportunities for information discovery and assistance. Here are just a few that we’re addressing with Lens:
GOOGLE LENS: SEARCH WHAT YOU SEE
Some things are really hard to describe with words. How would you describe the dog below if you wanted to know its breed? My son suggested, “Super cute, tan fur, with a white patch.” 🙄
With Lens, your camera can do the work for you, turning what you see into your search query.
So how does Lens turn the pixels in your camera stream into a card describing a Shiba Inu?
The answer, as you may have guessed, is machine learning and computer vision. But a machine learning algorithm is only as good as the data that it learns from. That’s why Lens leverages the hundreds of millions of queries in Image Search for “Shiba Inu” along with the thousands of images that are returned for each one to provide the basis for training its algorithms.
Next, Lens uses TensorFlow—Google’s open source machine learning framework—to connect the dog images you see above to the words “Shiba Inu” and “dog.”
Finally, we connect those labels to Google’s Knowledge Graph, with its tens of billions of facts on everything from pop stars to puppy breeds. This helps us understand that a Shiba Inu is a breed of dog.
Of course, Lens doesn’t always get it right:
Why does this happen? Oftentimes, what we see in our day-to-day lives looks fairly different than the images on the web used to train computer vision models. We point our cameras from different angles, at various locations, and under different types of lighting. And the subjects of these photos don’t always stay still. Neither do their photographers. This trips Lens up.
We’re starting to address this by training the algorithms with more pictures that look like they were taken with smartphone cameras.
This is just one of the many hard computer science problems we will need to solve. Just like with speech recognition, we’re starting small, but pushing on fundamental research and investing in richer training data.
TEACHING THE CAMERA TO READ
As we just saw, sometimes the things we’re interested in are hard to put into words. But there are other times when words are precisely the thing we’re interested in. We want to look up a dish we see on a menu, save an inspirational quote we see written on a wall, or remember a phone number. What if you could easily copy and paste text like this from the real world to your phone?
To make this possible, we’ve given Lens the ability to read and let you take action with the words you see. For example, you can point your phone at a business card and add it to your contacts, or copy ingredients from a recipe and paste them into your shopping list.
To teach Lens to read, we developed an optical character recognition (OCR) engine and combined that with our understanding of language from search and the Knowledge Graph. We train the machine learning algorithms using different characters, languages and fonts, drawing on sources like Google Books scans.
Sometimes, it’s hard to distinguish between similar looking characters like the letter “o” and zero. To do this, Lens uses language and spell-correction models from Google Search to better understand what a character or word most likely is—just like how Search knows to correct “bannana” to “banana,” Lens can guess “c00kie” is likely meant to be “cookie”—unless you’re a l33t h4ck3r from the 90s, of course.
We use this OCR engine for other uses too like reading product labels. Lens can now identify more than one billion products—four times the number it covered at launch.
THE CAMERA AS A TOOL FOR CURIOSITY
When you’re looking to identify a cute puppy or save a recipe, you know what you want to search for or do. But sometimes we’re not after answers or actions—we’re looking for ideas, like shoes or jewelry in a certain style.
Now, style is even harder to put into words. That’s why we think the camera—a visual input—can be powerful here.
With the style search feature in Lens you can point your camera at outfits and home decor to get suggestions of items that are stylistically similar. So, for example, if you see a lamp you like at a friend’s place, Lens can show you similar designs, along with useful information like product reviews.
THE ERA OF THE CAMERA
A decade ago, I started at Google as a bright-eyed product manager enamored with the potential of visual search. But the tech simply wasn’t there. Fast forward to today and things are starting to change. Machine learning and computational photography techniques allow the Pixel 3 to capture great photos both day and night. Deep learning algorithms show promise in detecting signs of diabetic retinopathy from retinal photographs. Computer vision is now starting to let our devices understand the world and the things in it far more accurately.
Looking ahead, I believe that we are entering a new phase of computing: an era of the camera, if you will. It’s all coming together at once—a breathtaking pace of progress in AI and machine learning; cheaper and more powerful hardware thanks to the scale of mobile phones; and billions of people using their cameras to bookmark life’s moments, big and small.
As computers start to see like we do, the camera will become a powerful and intuitive interface to the world around us; an AI viewfinder that puts the answers right where the questions are—overlaying directions right on the streets we’re walking down, highlighting the products we’re looking for on store shelves, or instantly translating any word in front of us in a foreign city. We’ll be able to pay our bills, feed our parking meters, and learn more about virtually anything around us, simply by pointing the camera.
In short, the camera can give us all superhuman vision.
Reading time: 5 minutes
In a world of superheroes, creativity is a real human superpower. Everybody has it. It doesn’t just live within certain types of people within an agency. We all have creative potential. But as we feel safer and more comfortable, we run the risk of losing that creative spark as life becomes associated with routine and order.
So is there a way to get back into your creative self? What methods from business, innovation or anywhere else are there to help you tap into that wellspring of positive ideas?
We sat down with Doctor Frederik Pferdt, Google’s Chief Innovation Evangelist, for the Google Partners Podcast episode 31, and he offered some fascinating insights (and tips) on how to answer some of those questions. During the discussion, he offers his thoughts on how adults can rekindle some of the creative fire they had as children, and other key takeaways to spark innovation at every level.
According to Doctor Pferdt it’s not only about ideas, but also about asking the right questions, finding good problems and therefore developing a healthy disregard for the impossible. Find a “what if” and a “why”.
As author and marketing guru, Simon Sinek recommends that you see if you can reframe the problem by getting to its roots. “Start with a Why.” Why do you normally approach a certain challenge from the angle you do, and why not step away from the issue and take a completely new perspective? Try something new. Get into a room, fill a wall or even two with post-it notes: what connections can you make and what new associations can you find, when you are free to consider them?
Every human being is looking for routines. They give us safety, security and save our brains energy. They make us feel good. That said, routines sometimes only help us to perform to our average level or below. Like putting your smartphone into ‘Low Power’ mode, some of the more complicated applications won’t work. To free us from the shackles of everyday thinking, it can be necessary to break those routines. Go and walk a mile, go check out a local gallery. Or even, as Jan Chozen Bay suggests in Mindfulness on the Go, pause and take a breath every time you walk through a door2. You can also make a list of your routines and they see if any of them are worth breaking (just as some will be worth holding onto).
Two modes for thinkers
As Doctor Pferdt mentions, it’s helpful to consider different approaches to thinking. According to him, there are two kinds of thinking: Divergent thinking powers the imagination, so it’s used for generating new possibilities and combining new thoughts. Convergent thinking powers your judgment, when you’re making decisions it’s how you evaluate and it’s the mode you use when you’re testing something or criticizing.
Allow yourself to recognize which of the two modes you are using. For example, try to think divergently when considering your methods or plans, so that you can embrace new possibilities. Give your ideas a chance to breathe before you start to criticize (and think convergently). One practical example writers use: if you have a speech or memo to deliver, try writing it out with a pen and paper before you type it out, and don’t stop to edit yourself. Let the words flow first and come back to edit later. You’ll find the shape of your ideas, which you can then come back to and refine with your critical eye later.
Why is it that way, why can’t it be different? New, radical solutions mostly emerge outside of our comfort zone. Constraints should be welcomed as an opportunity. Consider early users of Twitter. Writing a coherent message in just 140 characters (as it used to be) seemed a crazy challenge. But the constraint became creative fuel to millions of messages and new ways of communicating in shorthand. Just as the rigid structures of the meter, rhyme, and theatrical convention were subverted by William Shakespeare – even as he adhered to them.
From the Elizabethans to the present day, forms of convention and modes of communication move forward inexorably. The most successful thinkers and doers have to be ready to learn new ways and keep themselves learning, so they can stay in touch.
Build innovation into your daily routine
When you consider the pace of change in technology, it makes sense to include ‘innovator’ in your job description, in both your actions and attitude. What can you learn and take on in your thinking that will prepare you for the changes to come?
Doctor Pferdt recommends adopting what researcher Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset” (the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems), which can start a virtuous cycle whereby believing you can improve, you actually improve. There is also a sense that having an open mind to new ways of working will not just be crucial in 2019 but might also be the key to agency success in the future. Scott Harrison, founder of The Boom! has this to say on learning at work and the importance of a certain kind of versatility.1
In the end, the challenge comes back to us all. How do you change your everyday approach to get creative?
Watch the video below and tune in to the Google Partners Podcast to find out more; and let us know your thoughts on Twitter.
1 Kapow! how you can hack, teach, make and steal your way to creativity in digital, Think With Google, June 2018
2 Hacking your innovation mindset, re:Work, June 2018Read More…
In just a few days, most kids will be out of school for the holiday break. And while you and your family might be building snowmen and hanging out by the fire, the extra free time means your kids will also be spending more time on their devices. I chatted with Stephen Balkham at the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) and the two of us came up with some tips for striking a good balance with technology this time of year.
Stephen: Start winter vacation with a tech conversation
Just like you might sit down and plan out where you’re going over the holidays, you can set a game plan for how you and your family will use technology. Set expectations with your kids for how much screen time is appropriate each day, when screens are okay, and what kinds of things you want them to be doing on their device. Don’t forget to set restrictions for yourself as well–the best way to get your kids to use their devices appropriately is to model how to be a good digital citizen yourself.
Joseph: Turn screen time into family time
Screen time can be a really positive thing for your kids if you explore with them and bond over the things they like. Sometimes it can be tough to get a read on what your kids are into these days. The Family Link app (available for kids with Android and Chromebook devices) lets you set digital ground rules for your kids as they learn, play and explore online. Check out the app activity card to see what they’re interested in, and use it to strike up a conversation. Try downloading some of the apps they like and playing with them. Let them teach you a thing or two about how to play the games they like—you might feel silly, but it’s worth the cool points.
Stephen: Use tech to explore fun and educational things to do over the break
With the extra time off school and work, use the technology in your pocket to research, plan and explore new activities in your area. Do some research to see if the zoo or a local museum is doing anything special for the holidays. Using technology during your break doesn’t have to be for entertainment—it can help you find educational experiences for your kids as well.
Joseph: Find teacher-recommended content for your child’s new favorite device
If your child is getting a new device to play with this holiday season, you’re probably already thinking about what apps they’ll use. To encourage your kids to use tech that will help them learn, we’re adding a host of new apps to our teacher-recommended content card in Family Link.
The app recommendation card is currently only available to parents using Android phones. Visit our help center to learn more about how to share suggested apps with your kids.
Check out FOSI’s advice on Good Digital Parenting for more tips on how to confidently navigate the online world with your kids. To learn more about Family Link and how it can help encourage healthy digital habits for your kids all year round, visit our website.
Parents care deeply about helping their kids build a positive and healthy relationship with technology. Last year, we introduced the Family Link app to help parents stay in the loop with how their children are using Android devices. Laptops also play an important role at home, with just over 50% of kids between 6-12 sharing or owning a laptop device. Today we’re sharing more Family Link features that can help parents of kids who use Chromebooks, like setting time limits, managing the apps kids can download and more.
Chromebooks enable families to work, play, and learn on the same device. The Family Link app can help parents set some digital ground rules as their kids are exploring online on their Chromebooks.
Keep an eye on screen time
It’s up to parents to decide the right amount of screen time for their kids. Family Link supports you by making it easy to set screen time limits and establish bedtime hours. Family Link also offers activity reports to show parents and kids how much time is spent on their favorite apps.
Guide kids to good content
It’s not just about how much time kids spend on their devices, it’s about the quality of that time as well. Family Link allows parents to customize a list of websites that kids can visit, and review and approve the apps they can download from Google Play, such as YouTube Kids or Google Play Books. Parents can also hide individual apps when necessary, and manage in-app purchases within apps already installed on the Chromebook.
Manage Google Accounts and Chromebooks from anywhere
Parents can also manage settings for their child’s Google account, and remotely lock supervised accounts on the Chromebook if necessary. This holds true whether the Chromebook is shared by the whole family, or is used only by the child.
These are just the latest features we’re rolling out to help families. As we continue to build new tools for families, please share your ideas and feedback with us, so we can learn how we can continue building features that matter to you.
In celebration of the holiday giving season, you can make charitable donations to inspiring nonprofits from the Google Play Store. If you’re in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Germany, Great Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Taiwan and Indonesia, you’ll see this update over the next few days.
Making a donation on Google Play is quick, easy and 100% of your contributions go directly to the nonprofits you choose. On your Android device, you can head to play.google.com/donate to learn more about these incredible organizations and give to the cause—or causes—that move you.
Take a look at the participating nonprofits below:
American Red Cross: The American National Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
charity: water: charity: water is on a mission to solve the water crisis and reinvent charity for a new generation by bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries.
Doctors Without Borders USA: Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides medical relief to the victims of war, disease, and natural or man-made disasters, without regard to race, religion or political affiliation.
Girls Who Code: Girls Who Code programs work to inspire, educate, and equip girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities.
International Rescue Committee: The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 25 offices across the U.S.
Room to Read: Room to Read seeks to transform the lives of millions of children in low-income communities by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education.
Save the Children: Save the Children works to give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn, and protection from harm. From providing emergency assistance to promoting children’s rights, they transform children’s lives and futures.
UNICEF: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories. They help save children’s lives by providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more.
World Food Program USA: World Food Program USA brings people together to support the lifesaving work of the United Nations World Food Programme, the global leader in the fight to end hunger.
World Wildlife Fund US: World Wildlife Fund US is part of a global network which has worked for more than 50 years to protect the future of nature. World Wildlife Fund’s mission is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.
We’re inspired by the many ways that the Play community shares resources, supports each other and creates positive change. We hope this update offers a way to help other communities outside of our own in need.
Reading time: 1 minute
The Premier Partner Awards 2018 recognizes Premier Google Partners for innovation in search, display, mobile, shopping, video advertising and for their ability to grow businesses online. This year, over 1,500 applications were received. Out of these, the companies listed in the regional sites below demonstrated the strongest use of Google technology, innovation, and support for their advertisers.
This year’s winners have been announced and celebrated in ceremonies across the globe.
2018 Winners by region
- Australia and New Zealand
- Hong Kong and Taiwan
- Mainland China
If you want to take a closer look at this year’s award ceremonies, join in by following hashtags #PremierPartnerAwards and #GooglePremierPartnerAwards on Twitter, Instagram and your local social channels.
You can also follow Google Partners on Twitter and LinkedIn or learn more.
Once again, thanks to everyone who entered and congratulations to the winners. We look forward to seeing more great work from all of you in 2019.Read More…