Posts about Google

Getting Closer to a Universal Translator

I wrote the following to my friend yesterday

> for those that haven’t picked up English, pretty soon Google translate
> will do a decent enough job of imitating a universal translator
> through my cell phone to get by 🙂

And today my brother tweeted this video:

Ok, not quite a universal translator yet, but we are moving in the right direction.

Related: Aztec MathHolographic Television on the WayDroid IncredibleLego Mindstorms Robots Solving Sudoku and Rubiks Cube

Google’s Self Driving Car

Google thinks big. Google thinks like engineers. Google is willing to spend money taking on problems that other companies don’t. They have been developing a car that can drive itself. They see a huge amount of waste (drivers lives and drivers time) and seek a solution.

Larry and Sergey founded Google because they wanted to help solve really big problems using technology. And one of the big problems we’re working on today is car safety and efficiency. Our goal is to help prevent traffic accidents, free up people’s time and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use.

So we have developed technology for cars that can drive themselves. Our automated cars, manned by trained operators, just drove from our Mountain View campus to our Santa Monica office and on to Hollywood Boulevard. They’ve driven down Lombard Street, crossed the Golden Gate bridge, navigated the Pacific Coast Highway, and even made it all the way around Lake Tahoe. All in all, our self-driving cars have logged over 140,000 miles. We think this is a first in robotics research.

Our automated cars use video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to “see” other traffic, as well as detailed maps (which we collect using manually driven vehicles) to navigate the road ahead. This is all made possible by Google’s data centers, which can process the enormous amounts of information gathered by our cars when mapping their terrain.

To develop this technology, we gathered some of the very best engineers from the DARPA Challenges, a series of autonomous vehicle races organized by the U.S. Government. Chris Urmson was the technical team leader of the CMU team that won the 2007 Urban Challenge. Mike Montemerlo was the software lead for the Stanford team that won the 2005 Grand Challenge. Also on the team is Anthony Levandowski, who built the world’s first autonomous motorcycle that participated in a DARPA Grand Challenge, and who also built a modified Prius that delivered pizza without a person inside.

Related: Larry Page and Sergey Brin WebcastEnergy Secretary Steve Chu and Google CEO Eric Schmidt Speak On Funding Science ResearchGoogle’s Ten Golden RulesCMU Wins $2 million in DARPA Auto Race

Google Research Awards

Google Faculty Research Awards, support full-time faculty pursuing research. The most recent quarterly funding totals over $4 million in 75 awards across 18 different areas. The areas that received the highest level of funding for this round were systems and infrastructure, human computer interaction, multimedia and security. In this round, 26 percent of the funding was awarded to universities outside the U.S.

Some examples

  • Erik Brynjolfsson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Future of Prediction – How Google Searches Foreshadow Housing Prices and Quantities (Economics and market algortihms): How data from search engines like Google provide a highly accurate but simple way to predict future business activities.
  • John Quinn, Makerere University, Uganda. Mobile Crop Surveillance in the Developing World (Multimedia search and audio/video processing): A computer vision system using camera-enabled mobile devices to monitor the spread of viral disease among staple crops.
  • Ronojoy Adhikari, The Institute of Mathematical Sciences, India (probably this is the person, why doesn’t google include a link to these people’s sites?). Machine Learning of Syntax in Undeciphered Scripts (Machine learning): Devise algorithms that would learn to search for evidence of semantics in datasets such as the Indus script.
  • Jennifer Rexford, Princeton. Rethinking Wide-Area Traffic Management (Software and hardware systems infrastructure): Drawing on mature techniques from optimization theory, design new traffic-management solutions where the hosts, routers, and management system cooperate in a more effective way.

Smart companies realize great research is done in universities that should be adlopted by companies. Many companies listen to fools that talk of academic research as not “real world.” Companies like Google do well for many reasons but one is they pay more attention to scientific research than wall street research. More companies would benefit from adopting this leadership style from Google. Google also continues to fund and support research.

Related: posts on science and engineering fundingEnergy Secretary Steve Chu Speaks On Funding Science Research (with Google CEO) Invests $10 million in Geothermal EnergyLarry Page and Sergey Brin Interview

Droid Incredible

image of Droid Incredible cell phone

The Droid Incredible really is a great gadget. I am too cheap to get it but if I were to use a cell phone much I think this is the one I would get. I personally prefer more open software like Android (which the Droid Incredible uses) to Apple (though Apple’s user experience is great, I admit).

The Droid Incredible by HTC features a body design that measures 4.63 x 2.3 x 0.47 inches (HxWxD), making it easy to slip into your pocket. A large, 3.7-inch HD screen with 480×800 resolution graces the front of the device. The responsive OLED touch screen features rich colors and is easy to use.

With a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, 512 MB of RAM, and 8 GB of internal flash memory, the Droid Incredible delivers incredible performance, letting you run multiple applications. It includes an 8-megapixel camera with auto focus and 2x power LED flash, and also Google Maps Navigation, which provides GPS-based turn-by-turn voice guidance to get you where you need to go.

Related: more Curious Cat gadget postsApple’s iPadLow-Cost Multi-touch Whiteboard Using Wii RemoteVery Cool Wearable Computing Gadget from MITCell phone Microscope

Google Prediction API

This looks very cool.

The Prediction API enables access to Google’s machine learning algorithms to analyze your historic data and predict likely future outcomes. Upload your data to Google Storage for Developers, then use the Prediction API to make real-time decisions in your applications. The Prediction API implements supervised learning algorithms as a RESTful web service to let you leverage patterns in your data, providing more relevant information to your users. Run your predictions on Google’s infrastructure and scale effortlessly as your data grows in size and complexity.

Accessible from many platforms: Google App Engine, Apps Script (Google Spreadsheets), web & desktop apps, and command line.

The Prediction API supports CSV formatted training data, up to 100M in size. Numeric or unstructured text can be sent as input features, and discrete categories (up to a few hundred different ones) can be provided as output labels.

Language identification
Customer sentiment analysis
Product recommendations & upsell opportunities
Document and email classification

Related: The Second 5,000 Days of the WebRobot Independently Applies the Scientific MethodControlled Experiments for Software SolutionsStatistical Learning as the Ultimate Agile Development Tool by Peter Norvig

Google Social Circle Results

I haven’t paid much attention to this before: Google showing results based on your social network. In genera,l I think Google is doing great stuff. Their approach to profiles, buzz, search wiki, and social stuff in general however, I find poor (extremely poorly when I see how well they do so much else). They are too borg-like in their insistence you do things exactly as proscribed by them. They opt you in far to often, in the way they want – completely and with few, if any, options. They don’t provide good tools to let you manage your profile and connections. The Google profile itself is extremely lame.

It is very silly that they don’t let you create personas you want to use and let you use them as you want. They force you to use the Google account you are logged in as to access Google services as the profile used in Google searches. I don’t want or need the 2 tied together. And I would much prefer a way to switch between my personas by search (or buzz [though I dropped it because it was so inflexible] or whatever). I know which persona I want for a specific search. This seems like a very obvious thing lots of people would want to do. Google’s whole monolithic, one-very-rigid-size-fits-all social solutions don’t allow this. It is a fundamental flaw. Without fixing the flexibility of social services from Google I see them having trouble succeeding in that area. On the other hand much else of what they do is fantastic.

The way their search wiki stuff works is very similar: inflexible. They seem focused on do it how we want which is not, I think, the way most people want. Their social solutions are very all or nothing. They want people to behave how Google wants. For that reason after short attempts to try Google’s social efforts I give up. I keep hoping they will become more flexible and user friendly but keep being disappointed.

This is the network of connections Google uses to identify relevant social search results. It is based on a combination of the following:

  • Direct connections from your Google chat buddies and contacts (5)
  • Direct connections from links listed on your Google profile (0) such as Twitter and FriendFeed
  • Secondary connections (252) that are publicly associated with your direct connections
  • In addition to web pages from your social circle, posts from your Google Reader subscriptions may also appear in your social search results.

Google Social Search is a feature designed to help you discover relevant publicly-accessible content from your social circle, a set of online friends and contacts. The idea is that content from your friends and social contacts is often more relevant to you than content from strangers. For example, a movie review from an expert is useful, but a movie review from your best friend can be even better.

Related: Ideas for Improving Google (2006)Web search improvement (2005)Google Wave Developer Preview WebcastGmail FailureGoogle Should Stay True to Their Management Practicespost about Google, focused on management practices

See video on Google social search:
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Next steps for Google’s Experimental Fiber Network

Think big with a gig: Google’s experimental fiber

Universal, ultra high-speed Internet access will make all this and more possible. We’ve urged the FCC to look at new and creative ways to get there in its National Broadband Plan – and today we’re announcing an experiment of our own.

We’re planning to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the United States. We’ll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections. We plan to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.

Next steps for our experimental fiber network

So what’s next? Over the coming months, we’ll be reviewing the responses to determine where to build. As we narrow down our choices, we’ll be conducting site visits, meeting with local officials and consulting with third-party organizations. Based on a rigorous review of the data, we will announce our target community or communities by the end of the year.

Of course, we’re not going to be able to build in every interested community — our plan is to reach a total of at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people with this experiment. Wherever we decide to build, we hope to learn lessons that will help improve Internet access everywhere.

This is another great idea from Google. Not only to push forward the much poorer internet connectivity those in the USA have than other countries but it will hopefully lead to some real engineering breakthroughs. And it is a smart move to increase Google’s potential income – a better internet experience (for users) will likely help Google quite a bit.

Related: Google’s Underwater CablesGoogle Server Hardware DesignChina’s Next Generation InternetNet Neutrality: This is serious

Energy Secretary Steve Chu Speaks On Funding Science Research

Energy Secretary Steve Chu (and Nobel Laureate) speaks with Google CEO Eric Schmidt about science research. One of the things Steve Chu is doing is funding high risk experiments that have great potential. This is something that is often said should be done but then people resort to safe investments in research. Taking these risks is a very good idea.

This is another example the remarkable way Google operates. The CEO actually understands science and the public good. Google also provides a huge amount of great material online in the form of webcasts of those speaking at Google. Google behaves like a company run by engineers. Other companies have engineers in positions of power but behave like companies run by any MBAs (whether they are lawyers, accountants, marketers or engineers).

Related: President’s Council of Advisors on Science and TechnologyScientists and Engineers in CongressEric Schmidt on Google, Education and EconomicsLarry Page on How to Change the WorldDiplomacy and Science ResearchGoogle Investing Huge Sums in Renewable Energy and is Hiring

Google Uses Only Outside Air to Cool Data Center in Belgium

Another example of what makes Google such a good engineering company. They do some spectacular things but as importantly they take many, many, many, many individual steps which when taken together make a big difference. Google’s Chiller-less Data Center

Rather than using chillers part-time, the company has eliminated them entirely in its data center near Saint-Ghislain, Belgium, which began operating in late 2008 and also features an on-site water purification facility that allows it to use water from a nearby industrial canal rather than a municipal water utility.

Year-Round Free Cooling
The climate in Belgium will support free cooling almost year-round, according to Google engineers, with temperatures rising above the acceptable range for free cooling about seven days per year on average. The average temperature in Brussels during summer reaches 66 to 71 degrees, while Google maintains its data centers at temperatures above 80 degrees.

So what happens if the weather gets hot? On those days, Google says it will turn off equipment as needed in Belgium and shift computing load to other data centers. This approach is made possible by the scope of the company’s global network of data centers, which provide the ability to shift an entire data center’s workload to other facilities.

Related: Data Center Energy Needsengineering for a better environmentGoogle Aids Green Action

Google Wave Developer Preview Webcast

Google Wave is a new tool for communication and collaboration on the web, coming later this year. The presentation was given at Google I/O 2009. The demo shows what is possible in a HTML 5 browser. They are developing this as an open access project. The creative team is lead by the creators for Google Maps (brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen) and product manager Stephanie Hannon.

A wave is equal parts conversation and document. People can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

A wave is shared. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. Then playback lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when.

A wave is live. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.

Very cool stuff. The super easy blog interaction is great. And the user experience with notification and collaborative editing seems excellent. The playback feature to view changes seems good though that is still an area I worry about on heavily collaborative work. Hopefully they let you see like all change x person made, search changes…

They also have a very cool context sensitive spell checker that can highlight mis-spelled words that are another dictionary word but not right in the context used (about 44:30 in the webcast).

For software developer readers they also highly recommended the Google Web Development Kit, which they used heavily on this project.

Related: Joel Spolsky Webcast on Creating Social Web ResourcesRead the Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog in 35 LanguagesLarry Page and Sergey Brin Interview WebcastGoogle Should Stay True to Their Management Practices

Went Walkabout. Brought back Google Wave.
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President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

Today, during remarks at the National Academy of Sciences, President Barack Obama announced the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).

PCAST is an advisory group of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers who will advise the President and Vice President and formulate policy in the many areas where understanding of science, technology, and innovation is key to strengthening our economy and forming policy that works for the American people.

President Barack Obama said, “This council represents leaders from many scientific disciplines who will bring a diversity of experience and views. I will charge PCAST with advising me about national strategies to nurture and sustain a culture of scientific innovation.”

PCAST will be co-chaired by John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Eric Lander, Director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project; and Harold Varmus, President and CEO of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, former head of the National Institutes of Health and a Nobel laureate.

Members of the council include: Shirley Ann Jackson, Craig Mundie, Eric Schmidt and Ahmed Zewail.

Related: Science and Engineering in PoliticsScientists and Engineers in CongressJohn Conyers Against Open ScienceChina’s Technology Savvy Leadership