Monthly:January 2019

Making Gmail on mobile better for you

If you’ve used Gmail on the web in the past year, you probably noticed its new features that were designed to help you get things done quickly.

With machine learning, Gmail can help you draft emails faster using Smart Compose, or reply to messages quicker with suggested responses generated by Smart Reply. It can also “nudge” you to follow up on emails with subtle reminders in your inbox, and notify you to reply to threads so that you can prioritize what’s important or overdue.

Today, we’re kicking off the year with a new look for Gmail on mobile, too. As part of the new design, you can quickly view attachments—like photos—without opening or scrolling through the conversation. It’s also easier to switch between personal and work accounts, so you can access all of your emails without breaking a sweat. And just like on the web, you’ll get big, red warnings to alert you when something looks phish-y.

  • [carousel] 1. tl with attachment chips.png
  • [carousel] 2. account-switcher.png
  • [carousel] 2. security-warning.png

This update is part of a larger effort to make G Suite look and act like a family of products, designed in the Google Material Theme with ease-of-use in mind. We’ve already updated the web experiences for Gmail, Drive, Calendar, and most recently Google Docs and Sites. In the coming weeks, you’ll see the new mobile design in Gmail on Android and iOS, with more G Suite mobile apps to follow later this year.

Read More

AlphaStar: Mastering the Real-Time Strategy Game StarCraft II

Games have been used for decades as an important way to test and evaluate the performance of artificial intelligence systems. As capabilities have increased, the research community has sought games with increasing complexity that capture different elements of intelligence required to solve scientific and real-world problems. In recent years, StarCraft, considered to be one of the most challenging Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games and one of the longest-played esports of all time, has emerged by consensus as a grand challenge for AI research.Read More

Helping companies improve their customer support with Chatbase

Virtual Agent: Hi there, and thank you for contacting Some Wireless Company. How can I help you today?

You: My phone stopped working, so I’d like to replace it with a new one.

Virtual Agent: It sounds like you’re trying to activate a new phone, is that right?

You: Well, I need a replacement first. But eventually, sure.

[Three minutes later…]

Virtual Agent: Thank you. I’ll connect you with Sales, so they can set up your new account.

You:Wait, what? I already have an account. I just need a replacement ph—!

Different Virtual Agent: Hi there, and thank you for your interest in Some Wireless Company…

In a given year, it’s estimated that people in the U.S. spend more than 900 million hours on hold—navigating menus with their keypads and voices, or just waiting for answers to their questions. And the situation doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

Part of the challenge is that many companies build their answering systems the same way they did 30 years ago—with gut feelings and guesswork. While this may work for basic questions like “What’s my account balance?”, it quickly breaks down for more complex customer needs. We’re building Chatbase because we’re convinced there’s a better way.

Chatbase is a project in Area 120, Google’s workshop for experimental efforts, and we recently launched a new offering that helps businesses improve their automated voice and chat systems. By analyzing a company’s agent-customer transcripts, Chatbase can now help design virtual agents that are more helpful and versatile, and even improve over time. And yes, they know that sometimes you still want to speak with someone.

chatbase cluster

A visualization of how Chatbase analyzes agent-customer transcripts, and categorizes the types of support customers ask for.

By helping companies deliver great support experiences, Chatbase can help you get more of your time back. So here’s to fewer phone call-induced headaches, and having a few extra moments for yourself. (And if you’re a business that’d like to work with us, then please check us out over here.)

Read More

Let the sunshine in: opening the market for more renewable energy in Asia

Since 2010, we’ve signed on to more than 30 solar and wind projects across the Americas and Europe, making us the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy. Today we’re adding a fourth continent to our clean energy portfolio: Asia.

We’ve signed a long-term agreement to purchase the output of a 10-megawatt solar array (which is part of a larger solar farm) in Tainan City, Taiwan. This deal is a result of collaboration between Google, industry stakeholders and the Taiwanese government—which recently amended Taiwan’s Electricity Act to allow non-utility companies to directly buy renewable energy and decrease their carbon footprints. We’re the first corporate power purchaser to act on this renewables-friendly change to the law.

Standing 40,000 solar panels strong, our project in Taiwan will be located 100 kilometers south of our Changhua County data center and connected to the same regional power grid. As the Taiwanese government pursues further measures to remove market barriers and reduce renewable energy costs, we’re hopeful that more companies will purchase renewable energy, driving even larger projects across Taiwan.

Google’s effort to add more renewable energy in Taiwan builds on our longstanding collaboration with governments and utilities worldwide to make clean power more accessible. As far back as 2013, we’ve worked hand-in-hand with our North Carolina electricity provider, Duke Energy, to develop a program that enables companies to source power from local solar farms. Similarly, last year we finalized an arrangement with the state of Georgia that allows corporations to buy renewable energy directly through the state’s largest electric utility.

data center tour

Gary Demasi, Senior Director of Data Center Energy and Location Strategy, gives President Tsai Ing-Wen a tour of our Taiwan data center.

For Google, the solar purchase agreement provides a long-term and fixed electricity price to support our operations in Taiwan; it will also boost the carbon-free profile of our local data center. In addition, it’s a step in the right direction for grid reliability and Taiwan’s broader energy supply mix, which the government wants to expand and make more renewable in the coming years.

Thanks to our development partners Diode Ventures, Taiyen Green Energy (臺鹽綠能),J&V Energy (雲豹能源) andNew Green Power (永鑫能源), the project will have a unique design and community impact: poles will be mounted into commercial fishing ponds (pictured below) to elevate solar panels several feet into the sky. This setup will maximize land-use efficiency (important in a densely populated region), respect local ecology (fish and solar panels can coexist peacefully), and generate local economic benefits (the fishing community will be compensated for hosting solar panels on its ponds).

taiwansolar

The Taiwanese energy developer New Green Power (永鑫能源) will deploy 40,000 solar panels for Google across commercial fishing ponds, in a way that maximizes land-use efficiency and benefits local aquaculture workers.

Our inaugural renewable energy project in Asia is an encouraging example of what’s possible when forward-thinking government officials, local stakeholders and companies work together for a brighter future. A policy landscape offering a clear path to cost-effective renewable power procurement is essential as more people and more organizations look to access carbon-free energy. We applaud Taiwan for giving the green light to green energy initiatives like ours—the first of hopefully many more in the region.

Read More

Why we’re putting 1.6 million solar panels in Tennessee and Alabama

Hundreds of engineers, electricians and construction workers are building two new, energy-efficient Google data center campuses in the Southeastern U.S.—one in Tennessee and another in northern Alabama. And we’re not stopping there—we’re also putting more carbon-free energy on the electric grid that will power our servers in the region. In the coming years, Google will purchase the output of several new solar farms as part of a deal with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), totaling 413 megawatts of power from 1.6 million solar panels—that’s equivalent to the combined size of 65,000 home rooftop solar systems.

construction

An aerial view of our Tennessee data center under construction (photo credit: Aerial Innovations).

Located in Hollywood, Alabama and Yum Yum, Tennessee, the two biggest solar farms will be able to produce around 150 megawatts each. These solar sites will be among the largest renewable energy projects in the Tennessee Valley region, and the largest solar farms ever to be built for Google. Thanks to the abundant solar power generated by these new farms, electricity consumed by our data centers in Tennessee and Alabama will be matched with 100 percent renewable energy from day one, helping us match our annual electricity consumption as we grow.

Deploying solar farms does more than provide a cost-effective way to procure clean power. It will also create economic benefits for Tennessee and northern Alabama. TVA’s developer partners—NextEra Energy Resources and Invenergy—will hire hundreds of workers in the region, make long-term lease payments to property owners, and generate millions of dollars in economic activity and tax revenue for the broader community. To date, Google’s more than 30 long-term contract commitments to purchase renewable energy have resulted in nearly $5 billion in investment worldwide.

Last year, we shared our long-term objective to source carbon-free electricity around the clock for each of our data centers. These new solar projects will bring us substantially closer to that goal in the Southeastern U.S. In the carbon heat map below, you can see how well our operations in the region will be matched with carbon-free energy on an hour-by-hour basis, compared to a scenario without the solar projects. The green ribbon that appears in the heat map illustrates how the solar farms will make the majority of our daytime electricity use carbon-free.

looping GIF

Thanks to the deployment of 1.6 million solar panels, approximately 72 percent of our data center electricity use in Alabama and Tennessee will be matched on an hourly basis with carbon-free sources—compared to a status-quo regional grid mix that is 48 percent carbon free. (This projection is based on 2017 TVA generation, power demand of a typical Google data center, and local solar resources.)

There’s still more to do to make our data centers fully carbon free around the world, and we have a number of ideas on how to get there. We’re one step closer thanks to the solar stardom of Hollywood, Alabama and the carbon-free flavors of Yum Yum, Tennessee.

Read More

[Infographic] Traffic tips

We’re excited to share with you our infographic with important tips on how to boost and optimize your web site traffic. 

You can also download it with clickable links for desktop and mobile.

infographic-traffic-tips_1.png
infographic-traffic-tips_2.png
infographic-traffic-tips_3.png
infographic-traffic-tips_4.png
infographic-traffic-tips_5.png

Read More

New year, new skills: learn how to code with Grasshopper in 2019

It’s the first week of January, and the ink is barely dry on those New Year’s resolutions you wrote down. Often, resolutions involve learning a new skill, so while you’re in the mood to try something new, what about learning to code?

Grasshopper teaches adults to learn to code through fun puzzles and quizzes. It’s just one of the many projects built within Area 120, Google’s workshop for experimental projects. Over 1.6 million people have downloaded Grasshopper, and as we’ve been hearing more feedback on the app, we’re sharing three reasons you should try it out in 2019.

Anyone can learn to code

You might want to learn to code, but don’t know where to start or worry it might be too difficult. Over the last nine months, Grasshopper has helped stay-at-home moms, mid-career changers and international entrepreneurs kick-start new careers and get an edge before pursuing advanced coding courses. In fact, over 100,000 people around the world have graduated from our Fundamentals course, which covers the basics of introductory computer science.

We’ve also run a number of academic studies on the effectiveness of Grasshopper, and found two insights: after two weeks of use, students are more motivated to learn to code. And while women tend to start off their Grasshopper journey feeling a bit more unsure about learning to code, we see that confidence gap between men and women decrease by 18%.

There are no mistakes in learning to code

What causes some people to succeed at learning to code, while others struggle? The answer we found was surprising: the best Grasshopper students make the most attempts to solve puzzles, getting more things “wrong” in the process.

Grasshopper French flag

Each Grasshopper puzzle presents a coding challenge, guiding you toward understanding a new concept through real-time feedback on each attempt. Students who graduate from Grasshopper have on average 4.4 more incorrect attempts in a puzzle per coding session than our non-graduating students. This actually makes sense: the best professional software engineers also make many small changes to code while trying to solve a problem, so that they can test their code for issues along the way. So, our best students don’t get things “wrong.” They’re actually taking lots of mini steps to move toward a solution, the same way professional software engineers do!

You can learn to code anytime, anywhere

We designed Grasshopper to be on mobile, so you can learn whenever you have time—the coding puzzles only take five to ten minutes each. Whether you’re waiting in line, unwinding on the couch or on a lunch break, Grasshopper turns a spare moment into an opportunity to learn an essential job skill. 

As you’re thinking about those resolutions for the new year, consider adding learning to code to your list. Grasshopper is available in English on iOS and Android.

Read More