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Ever since mankind could go fast, we have longed to go faster. And ever since we’ve done work, we have longed to have someone else, or something else, do that work for us. You might already be familiar with our self-driving car project. We’ve spent years working on a tough engineering problem—how to create a hardware and software system capable of gathering and interpreting massive amounts of real-time data and acting on that knowledge swiftly and surely enough to navigate innumerable varieties of crowded thoroughfares without ever once (among other human frailties) exploding in a fit of road rage at the guy who just cut hard left across your lane without even bothering to flash his blinker.

Well, our autonomous cars have now been test-driven (or rather, test-ridden) for more than 200,000 miles without a single machine-caused mishap. And today we're moving the project one great leap forward with Google Racing, a groundbreaking partnership with NASCAR to help self-driving vehicles compete in the world of stock car racing. We think the most important thing computers can do in the next decade is to drive cars—and that the most important thing Google Racing can do in the next decade is drive them, if possible, more quickly than anyone else. Or anything else.

Find more photos on our Google+ page

The program remains in its infancy; we’ll surely face numerous testing and competitive hurdles before our first car peels out into a NASCAR race. But I couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities. NASCAR’s ambitious technology investments—from driver safety to green initiatives—and the sport’s spirit of challenge, effort and execution all beautifully embody our most deeply held values as a company. Having skidded around a parking lot last week myself, I’m pretty sure that none of those test miles were as hard as it will be for one of our cars to hold its own in a field of 43 jacked-up, 800-horsepower beasts screaming down a straightaway within inches of each other at upwards of 200 miles per hour. I can't imagine a more exciting challenge for our team than to race our autonomous vehicles against their carbon-based competitors.

Find more photos on our Google+ page

Larry and I have always believed in tackling big problems that matter, and we’re surer than ever that self-driving cars are one of them, capable of changing the world in all kinds of truly important ways, like reducing traffic and accidents by driving more efficiently, making correct split-second decisions and never shifting their focus off the road to check a map, text a friend, apply rear-view mirror mascara or dip a piece of tekka maki into a lid of soy sauce jostling over on the passenger seat. I hope that today’s announcement of Google Racing will mark another step along this path, and spur innovations that improve the daily lives of people all over the world. Or at the very least offer us a few cool new thrills on hot weekend afternoons.

Update Apr 1, 10:05 a.m.: As you probably guessed—no, Google Racing isn’t real. We were really happy to work with NASCAR on this April Fools' joke. The technological advancements this sport has made in the last decade are impressive and while we won’t be providing self-driving cars to compete in the races, we look forward to working together with NASCAR in the future on projects like their YouTube channel. What better way to drive change?

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The Internet has transformed society in so many ways, and that’s bound to continue. The aim of our Big Tent events is to bring together people with diverse views to debate some of the hot-button issues that transformation raises.

This week we hosted our first Big Tent event stateside at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. The theme was Digital Citizenship, and over the course of the day we discussed child safety online, the most effective ways to incorporate technology with education and what governments and civil society can do to maintain a responsible and innovative web.

The policymakers, commentators and industry members who attended heard from a variety of speakers, from child prodigy and literacy evangelist Adora Svitak to filmmaker and Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain. Wendy Kopp, the CEO and founder of Teach for America, gave a keynote about the need to integrate technology into education thoughtfully, not as a panacea, but rather within a greater context that supports critical thinking and other crucial curriculum goals. In a fireside chat with David Drummond, Jennifer Pahlka, the founder and executive director of Code for America (which takes the idea of skilled service from Teach for America and applies it to programmers) laid out her vision for a growing corps of young coder volunteers with an “agile, maker-and-doer mentality” that can help local governments better serve their citizens, and help citizens better participate in their democracy. “Instead of a chorus of voices,” she said, “I’d like to see a chorus of hands.”

We also launched a new Big Tent YouTube channel with a collection of content from past Big Tents and information about upcoming events around the world. Visit the channel to watch speaker videos, participate in the debate via the comments, get more information on the presenters and see how different communities approach many of the same issues. Stay tuned for future Big Tents, both here and abroad.

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Searches can become stories. Some are inspiring, some change the way we see the world and some just put a smile on our face. This is a story of how people can use Google to do something extraordinary. If you have a story, share it. - Ed.

We all have memories of the great teachers who shaped our childhood. They found ways to make the lightbulb go off in our heads, instilled in us a passion for learning and helped us realize our potential. The very best teachers were creative with the tools at their disposal, whether it was teaching the fundamentals of addition with Cheerios or the properties of carbon dioxide with baking soda and vinegar. As the Internet has developed, so too have the resources available for teachers to educate their students.

One teacher who has taken advantage of the web as an educational tool is Cheryl Oakes, a resource room teacher in Wells, Maine. She’s also been able to tailor the vast resources available on the web to each student’s ability. This approach has proven invaluable for Cheryl’s students, in particular 16-year-old Morgan, whose learning disability makes it daunting to sort through search results to find those webpages that she can comfortably read. Cheryl taught Morgan how to use the Search by Reading Level feature on Google Search, which enables Morgan to focus only on those results that are most understandable to her. To address the difficulty Morgan faces with typing, Cheryl introduced her to Voice Search, so Morgan can speak her queries into the computer. Morgan is succeeding in high school, and just registered to take her first college course this summer.



There’s a practically limitless amount of information available on the web, and with search features, you can find the content that is most meaningful for you. For more information, visit google.com/insidesearch/features.html.

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London has become one of the world's great digital capitals. The Internet accounts for eight percent of the U.K. economy and has become, in these days of tough public finances, a welcome engine of economic growth.

We believe there is even more potential for entrepreneurs to energize the Internet economy in the U.K., and to help spur growth, today we’re opening Campus London , a seven story facility in the east London neighborhood known as Tech City. Google began as a startup in a garage. We want to empower the next generation of entrepreneurs to be successful by building and supporting a vibrant startup community. Our goal with Campus is to catalyze the startup ecosystem and build Britain's single largest community of startups under one roof.



The U.K.’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt. Hon. George Osborne MP, launched Campus at this morning's official opening. The Chancellor toured the building, meeting some of the entrepreneurs currently making their home in Campus and learning more about their innovations, ranging from fashion trendsetting websites to personalized London leisure guides. He then flipped the switch on a commemorative graffiti plaque.

Campus is a collaboration between Google and partners Central Working, Tech Hub, Seedcamp and Springboard. It will provide startups with workspace in an energizing environment and will also host daily events for and with the community. We will run a regular speaker series, alongside lectures and programing, as well as provide mentorship and training from local Google teams.

Visitors will have access to a cafe and co-working space, complete with high speed wifi. We welcome members of the startup community: entrepreneurs, investors, developers, designers, lawyers, accountants, etc. and hope that this informal, highly concentrated space will lead to chance meetings and interactions that will generate the ideas and partnerships that will drive new, innovative businesses.

The buzz around Campus from within the startup community has meant that today, on day one, Campus is already at 90% capacity, with more than 100 people on site and an additional 4,500 who have signed up online to visit.

We are looking forward to getting to know the community. East London is emerging as a world-leading entrepreneurial hub, and we’re excited to be a part of it. Take a photo tour of Campus here, and if you’d like to learn more, visit us at www.campuslondon.com.

Let’s fill this town with startups!



(Cross-posted from the European Public Policy blog)

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Every day, millions of people turn to Google Maps for Android for free, voice-guided GPS navigation to guide them to their destination. So far, Navigation on Google Maps for Android has provided 50 billion kilometers of turn-by-turn directions, the equivalent of 130,000 trips to the moon, 334 trips to the sun, 10 trips to Neptune or 0.005 light years! When getting to your destination matters most, Google Maps for Android will get you there:




A new look for Navigation on Android 4.0+ phones
In today’s release of Google Maps 6.5 for Android we’ve redesigned the Navigation home screen in Android 4.0+ to make it easier to enter a new destination or select from recent and favorite locations by swiping left or right.


Left: New Navigation home screen   Right: Navigation in Google Maps for Android


Crisper, faster maps for high pixel density devices
If your device has a high pixel density screen, such as those on Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S II, Droid Razr and others, you’ll now get higher resolution map tiles that take better advantage of the pixels-per-inch on your screen. The result is a crisper, less cluttered map that is easier to read:


Left: Previous style Right:New style in Google Maps 6.5 for Android


Compare our new map on the right to the previous map on the left. The road network is easier to see, less obstructed by labels, and has more color contrast. At more zoomed-in levels, you’ll notice a more controlled amount of maps labels to avoid cluttering the map and blocking out street names. The new style also helps maps react faster to panning, zooming and twisting.

You'll start seeing the new style as you navigate around new areas on the map; however, you can see these changes immediately by clearing your cache from the Maps settings.

Pick your preferred public transit mode and route option
Google Maps 6.5 for Android now lets you choose to prioritize a particular transit mode (such as the bus or subway) and route option (like taking the recommended route, one with fewer transfers or one with less walking). Whether you just need to get somewhere as fast as possible, or you want to avoid the risk of a missed connection or you prefer not to tire your legs, you can get the transit directions that best suit you. Transit directions and schedules are available for 475 cities around the world.


To start using Google Maps 6.5 for Android, download the update from Google Play. Learn more about how to use other great features of Google Maps for Android on the redesigned Google Maps YouTube channel that has 12 new videos available today.



(Cross-posted on the Lat Long blog)

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Every day we aim to make technology so simple and intuitive that you stop thinking about it—we want Google to work so well, it just blends into your life. But sometimes it’s helpful to step back and take stock of what you’re doing online.

Today we’re introducing Account Activity, a new feature in your Google Account. If you sign up, each month we’ll send you a link to a password-protected report with insights into your signed-in use of Google services.

For example, my most recent Account Activity report told me that I sent 5 percent more email than the previous month and received 3 percent more. An Italian hotel was my top Gmail contact for the month. I conducted 12 percent more Google searches than in the previous month, and my top queries reflected the vacation I was planning: [rome] and [hotel].

Click the image for a larger version

Knowing more about your own account activity also can help you take steps to protect your Google Account. For example, if you notice sign-ins from countries where you haven’t been or devices you’ve never owned, you can change your password immediately and sign up for the extra level of security provided by 2-step verification.

Account Activity is a complement to other tools like the Google Dashboard, which shows you what information is stored in your Google Account, and the Ads Preferences Manager, which lets you control the way Google tailors ads to your interests.

Give Account Activity a try, and tell us what you think by clicking on the “Send feedback” button in the lower right corner of your report. Over the next few months, we plan to incorporate more Google services. Meanwhile, we hope this feature helps you better understand and manage your information on Google.

Update March 30: Added information about related tools.

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For the first time, you can ride a train on Street View. Through a partnership with UNESCO and Rhaetian Railways, we captured 75.8 miles/122 km of the famous UNESCO World Heritage Albula/Bernina railway line with Street View cameras. Starting today, in addition to accessing the imagery from directly within Google Maps, you can also find the collection in our new gallery.


Like our trip to the Amazon, this Swiss mountain journey also began last year, when we attached the Street View trike to the wagon of a Rhaetian Railway train. From the very front of the train, the trike took 360-degree images along the expansive track.


You can watch the video of how we did it here, and for more Street View collections around the world, visit our updated Street View gallery.

Enjoy the ride!



(Cross-posted on the Lat Long blog)

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Last year we announced a $1.25 million grant to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory to help preserve and digitize thousands of archival documents, photographs and videos about Nelson Mandela. Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory (NMCM) is committed to documenting the life and times of one of the world's greatest statesmen and spreading his story to promote social justice throughout the world.

Today, the Mandela archive has become a reality. Along with historians, educationalists, researchers, activists and many others around the world, you can access a wealth of information and knowledge about the life and legacy of this extraordinary African leader. The new online multimedia archive includes Mandela’s correspondence with family, comrades and friends, diaries written during his 27 years of imprisonment, and notes he made while leading the negotiations that ended apartheid in South Africa. The archive will also include the earliest-known photo of Mr. Mandela and never-before seen drafts of Mr. Mandela's manuscripts for the sequel to his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom.


We’ve worked closely with the NMCM to create an interactive online experience which we hope will inspire you as much as us. You can search and browse the archives to explore different parts of Mandela’s life and work in depth: Early Life, Prison Years, Presidential Years, Retirement, Books for Mandela, Young People and My Moments with a Legend.

For example, you might be interested in Nelson Mandela’s personal memories of the time he was incarcerated and click into the Prison Years exhibit. You can immediately see a curated set of materials threaded together into a broader narrative. These include handwritten notes on his desk calendars, which show, for example, that he met President F.W. De Klerk for the first time on December 13, 1989 for two and a half hours in prison; the Warrants of Committal issued by the Supreme Court which sent him to prison; the earliest known photo of Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island circa 1971; and a personal letter written from prison in 1963 to his daughters, Zeni and Zindzi, after their mother was arrested, complete with transcript.


From there, you might want to see all the letters held by the archive, and click “See more” in the letters category, where you can discover all personal letters or use the time filter to explore his diaries and calendars written between 1988 and 1998, where you can see that in the last page of the last diary, he met with President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda to exchange ideas about the situation in northern Uganda. If you were a researcher, you can search through various fragments of Madiba’s memory that relate to Ahmed Kathrada, his long-time comrade, politician and anti-apartheid activist, where you can find photos, videos, manuscripts and letters that relate to him.

Finally, by clicking into the exhibit, My Moments with a Legend, you can go beyond Madiba’s personal materials to get a diverse perspective through photos, videos and stories, via the memories of people like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, F.W. De Klerk and Nomfundo Walaza, a community worker.


The Nelson Mandela Digital Archive project is an initiative by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and the Google Cultural Institute, which helps to preserve and promote our diverse cultural and historical heritage. Some of our other initiatives include the Art Project, digitizing the Dead Sea Scrolls and bringing the Yad Vashem Holocaust materials online.

You can start exploring the Nelson Mandela archive right now at archive.nelsonmandela.org. We hope you’ll be inspired by this influential leader—the face of South Africa’s transition to democracy.

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It's only Spring Break for most college students, but summer vacation will be here before you know it. Instead of getting stuck babysitting your little sister or mowing your neighbor's lawn, apply for Google Summer of Code and spend the summer of 2012 earning money writing code for open source projects.

Google Summer of Code is a global program that gives university students a stipend to write code for open source projects over a three month period. Accepted students are paired with a mentor from the participating projects, gaining exposure to real-world software development and the opportunity for future employment in areas related to their academic pursuits. Best of all, more source code is created and released for the use and benefit of all.

For the past ten days, interested students have had the opportunity to review the ideas pages for this year’s 180 accepted projects and research which projects they would like to contribute to this year. We hope all interested students will apply! Submit your proposal to the mentoring organizations via the Google Summer of Code program website from today through Friday, April 6 at 19:00 UTC.


Google Summer of Code is a highly competitive program with a limited number of spots. Students should consult the Google Summer of Code student manual for suggestions on how to write a quality proposal that will grab the attention of the mentoring organizations. Multiple proposals are allowed but we highly recommend focusing on quality over quantity. The mentoring organizations have many proposals to review, so it is important to follow each organization’s specific guidelines or templates and we advise you to submit your proposal early so you can receive timely feedback.

For more tips, see a list of some helpful dos and don’ts for successful student participation written by a group of experienced Google Summer of Code administrators, our user’s guide for the program site, Frequently Asked Questions and timeline. You can also stay up-to-date on all things Google Summer of Code on our Google Open Source blog, mailing lists or on Internet relay chat at #gsoc on Freenode.

To learn more about Google Summer of Code, tune in to the Google Students page on Google+ next Monday, April 2 at 3:30pm PT for a Hangout on Air with open source programs manager Chris DiBona. He'll be talking about Google Summer of Code with other members of the open source team at Google. Submit your questions about the program between now and next Monday using the hashtag #gsochangout, and Chris and the open source team will answer them live during the Hangout On Air.

Good luck to all the open source coders out there, and remember to submit your proposals early—you only have until April 6!

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To paraphrase Lord Kelvin, if you don’t measure you can’t improve. Our data center operations team lives by this credo, and we take every opportunity to measure the performance of our facilities. In the same way that you might examine your electricity bill and then tweak the thermostat, we constantly track our energy consumption and use that data to make improvements to our infrastructure. As a result, our data centers use 50 percent less energy than the typical data center.

One of the measurements we track is PUE, or power usage effectiveness. PUE is a ratio of the total power used to run a data center to the amount used to power the servers. For instance, if a data center has a PUE of 2.0, that means that for every watt of energy that powers the servers, another watt powers the cooling, lighting and other systems. An ideal PUE would be 1.0.

In 2011, our trailing 12-month average PUE was approximately 1.14—an improvement from 1.16 in 2010. In other words, our data centers use only 14 percent additional power for all sources of overhead combined. To calculate this number we include everything that contributes to energy consumption in our data centers. That means that in addition to the electricity used to power the servers and cooling systems, we incorporate the oil and natural gas that heat our offices. We also account for system inefficiencies like transformer, cable and UPS losses and generator parasitic energy draw.

If we chose to use a simpler calculation—for instance, if we included only the data center and the cooling equipment—we could report a PUE as low as 1.06 at our most efficient location. But we want to be as comprehensive as possible in our measurements. You can see the difference in this graphic:


We’ve been publishing our PUE quarterly since 2008—in fact, we were the first company to do so, and are still the only one. Our numbers are based on actual production data taken from hundreds of meters installed throughout our data centers, not design specs or best-case scenarios. One way to think of it is comparing a car manufacturer’s mileage estimates for a new model car to the car’s real-life miles per gallon. We’re measuring real-world mileage so we can improve real-world efficiency.

Our 2011 numbers and more are available for closer examination on our data center site. We’ve learned a lot through building and operating our data centers, so we’ve also shared our best practices. These include steps like raising the temperature on the server floor and using the natural environment to cool the data center, whether it’s outside air or recycled water.

We’ve seen dramatic improvements in efficiency throughout the industry in recent years, but there’s still a lot we can do. Sharing comprehensive measurement data and ideas for improvement can help us all move forward.

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Can you teach an old spider new tricks? Could better understanding alien superbugs cure diseases on Earth? These are the questions that will be asked by the two winning experiments of YouTube Space Lab, the science competition that challenged students from 14 to 18 years old to design a science experiment that could be performed in space. Your votes and our expert judges chose the winners from thousands of entries from around the world. Experiments submitted by Dorothy and Sara, from Troy, Mich., U.S. (winners in the 14-16-year-old age group) and Amr from Alexandria, Egypt (winner in the 17-18-year-old age group) will be performed aboard the International Space Station and live streamed to the world on YouTube.

Meet Amr from Alexandria, Egypt
Global Winner, 17-18-year-old age group:



Meet Dorothy and Sara from Troy, Mich., U.S.
Global Winners, 14-16-year-old age group:



Sunita Williams—the NASA astronaut who’ll fly to the International Space Station later this year and perform the winning experiments live on YouTube—announced the global winners at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C., where the six regional winning teams were gathered. While in Washington, all the teams also took a ZERO-G weightless flight and a private tour of the the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum.

In addition to having their experiments performed in space, Amr, Dorothy and Sara get to choose between one of two awesome space adventures: a trip to Japan to watch their experiment blast off in a rocket bound for the ISS or, once they’re 18 years old, a week-long astronaut course in Star City, Russia, the training center for Russian cosmonauts.

Subscribe to the YouTube Space Lab channel for all the best space playlists and to check out video of the winners on their ZERO-G flight. Stay tuned for the live stream from space, which will take place later this year.

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Last August, a few members of our Brazil and U.S. Street View and Google Earth Outreach teams were invited to the Amazon Basin to collect ground-level images of the rivers, forest and communities in the Rio Negro Reserve. Today, on World Forest Day, we’re making those images available through the Street View feature on Google Maps. Now anyone can experience the beauty and diversity of the Amazon.

Tributary of the Rio Negro - View Larger Map

Take a virtual boat ride down the main section of the Rio Negro, and float up into the smaller tributaries where the forest is flooded. Stroll along the paths of Tumbira, the largest community in the Reserve, or visit some of the other communities who invited us to share their lives and cultures. Enjoy a hike along an Amazon forest trail and see where Brazil nuts are harvested. You can even see a forest critter if you look hard enough!

Amazon Rainforest - View Larger Map

This project was made possible in partnership with the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS), the local nonprofit conservation organization that invited us to the area. We used the Street View trike and a tripod camera with a fisheye lens—typically used to capture imagery of business interiors—to capture both the natural landscape and the local communities. In all, more than 50,000 still photos were stitched together to create these immersive, 360-degree panoramic views:


Many areas of the Amazon, including Rio Negro Reserve, are under the protection of the Brazilian government with restricted access to the public, so we hope that this Street View collection provides access to this special corner of the planet that many of us otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to experience. Together with FAS, we’re thrilled to help everyone from researchers and scientists to armchair explorers around the world learn more about the Amazon, and better understand how local communities there are working to preserve this unique environment for future generations.

To do this directly from maps you can go to Brazil map and drag Pegman to the Rio Negro River

Start exploring this portion of the Amazon and other collections around the world on the updated Street View site and gallery.



(Cross-posted on the Lat Long blog)

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It's March Madness and many basketball fans are turning to the web to research teams, coaches and players to build the perfect bracket. Being sports nerds ourselves, ever since the seeds announcement on Sunday we’ve been heads down in data, and with just a few hours left until first tip-off and brackets close, we’re attempting a buzzer beater: could search volume be a good indicator of game outcome?

We looked back at basketball search trends to see how Google would have performed if it had submitted a bracket for the past few tournaments. We've had our hits and misses over the years but in the spirit of the games and curiosity, we’ve decided to reveal our picks for the 2012 tournament based on search volume. Check back often to see how we’re doing.

Along with our official bracket, we’ve collected all the ways you can use Google to make your selections and stay connected with your teams and fellow fans throughout the tournament. Explore the full list on our College Hoops 2012 page.

Connect
Stay informed
  • Keep up with your bracket picks by searching for [march madness] or individual teams like [duke basketball] to see real-time scores and schedules for the tournament.
Explore
  • Download a complimentary copy of the Zagat guide Winning Hangouts for College Basketball Fans to find a place to watch the games and cheer on your favorite teams. The guide features trusted ratings and reviews for restaurants, sports bars and gastropubs in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
  • Since chances are you can’t physically fly to every game around the U.S., take a virtual tour of the tournament locations via a customized map overlay in Google Earth and watch this video of 3D models of the stadiums where your favorite teams will be playing.

It's true, I only have one Pac-12 team to support, and it's not my beloved Stanford Cardinal. But, this is still my favorite time of year—buzzer beaters, Cinderella stories and an overwhelming display of pure passion and athleticism that can only be seen during a tournament like this. Good luck to all 64 teams on their journey to the National Championship, and don't forget to join the action using #GoogleHoops on Google+.

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If you’re familiar with the work of the Southern poet Sidney Lanier, you’ll know he wrote about the beauty of the Chattahoochee River in Georgia. “The Hooch,” as it’s known around here, starts up in the northeastern part of the state, runs through Atlanta and down into Alabama before emptying out into the Gulf of Mexico. Those of us who work in Google’s Douglas County, Ga. data center have a special fondness for the Chattahoochee because it’s an integral part of our ability to run a highly efficient facility.

Google’s data centers use half the energy of a typical data center in part because we rely on free cooling rather than energy hungry mechanical chillers. In Douglas County, like at most of our facilities, we use evaporative cooling, which brings cold water into the data center to cool the servers, then releases it as water vapor through cooling towers.

A typical data center can use hundreds of thousands of gallons of water a day. When we first built the Georgia facility in 2007, the water we used came from the local potable (drinking) water supply. But we soon realized that the water we used didn’t need to be clean enough to drink. So we talked to the Douglasville-Douglas County Water and Sewer Authority (known locally as the WSA) about setting up a system that uses reuse water—also known as grey- or recycled water—in our cooling infrastructure. With this system in place, we’re able to use recycled water for 100 percent of our cooling needs.

This video of the system includes never-before-seen footage of our Douglas County facility:



Here’s how it works: The WSA has a water treatment facility in Douglasville, Ga. that cleans wastewater from the local communities and releases it back into the Chattahoochee. We worked with the WSA to build a side-stream plant about five miles west of our data center that diverts up to 30 percent of the water that would have gone back into the river; instead we send it through the plant for treatment and then on to the data center. Any water that doesn’t evaporate during the cooling process then goes to an Effluent Treatment Plant located on-site. There, we treat the water once again to disinfect it, remove mineral solids and send it back out to the Chattahoochee—clean, clear and safe.


The Chattahoochee provides drinking water, public greenspace and recreational activities for millions of people. In fact, just two weeks ago it was the first river to be designated a National Water Trail in a new system announced by the Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar—a system that encourages community stewardship of local waterways. We’re glad to do our part in creating an environmentally sustainable economy along the shores of the Hooch.

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We believe that ads are useful and relevant information that can help you find what you’re looking for online—whether you’re comparing digital cameras or researching new cars. We also want you to be able to use Google and click on any ads that interest you with confidence. Just as we work hard to make Gmail free of spam and the Google Play Store free of malware, we’re committed to enforcing rigorous standards for the ads that appear on Google and on our partner sites.

Like all other Internet companies, we’re fighting a war against a huge number of bad actors—from websites selling counterfeit goods and fraudulent tickets to underground international operations trying to spread malware and spyware. We must remain vigilant because scammers will always try to find new ways to abuse our systems. Given the number of searches on Google and the number of legitimate businesses who rely on this system to reach users, our work to remove bad ads must be precise and at scale.

We recently made some improvements to help ensure the ads you see comply with our strict policies, so we wanted to give you an overview of both our principles and these new technologies.

Ads that harm users are not allowed on Google
We’ve always approached our ads system with trust and safety in mind. Our policies cover a wide range of issues across the globe in every country in which we do business. For example, our ads policies don’t allow ads for illegal products such as counterfeit goods or harmful products such as handguns or cigarettes. We also don’t allow ads with misleading claims (“lose weight guaranteed!”), fraudulent work-at-home scams (“get rich quick working from home!”) or unclear billing practices.

How it all works
With billions of ads submitted to Google every year, we use a combination of sophisticated technology and manual review to detect and remove these sorts of ads. We spend millions of dollars building technical architecture and advanced machine learning models to fight this battle. These systems are designed to detect and remove ads for malicious download sites that contain malware or a virus before these ads could appear on Google. Our automated systems also scan and review landing pages—the websites that people are taken to once they click—as well as advertiser accounts. When potentially objectionable ads are flagged by our automated systems, our policy specialists review the ads, sites and accounts in detail and take action.

Improvements to detection systems
Here are some important improvements that we’ve recently made to our systems:

  • Improved “query watch” for counterfeit ads: While anyone can report counterfeit ads, we’ve widened our proactive monitoring of sensitive keywords and queries related to counterfeit goods which allows us to catch more counterfeit ads before they ever appear on Google
  • New “risk model” to detect violations: Our computer scanning depends on detailed risk models to determine whether a particular ad may violate our policies, and we recently upgraded our engineering system with a new “risk model” that is even more precise in detecting advertisers who violate our policies
  • Faster manual review process: Some ads need to be reviewed manually. To increase our response time in preventing ads from policy-violating advertisers, we sped up our internal processes and systems for manual reviews, enabling our specialists to be more precise and fast
  • Twenty-four hour response time: We aim to respond within 24 hours upon receiving a reliable complaint about an ad to ensure that we’re reviewing ads in a timely fashion

We also routinely review and update the areas which our policies cover. For example, we recently updated our policy for ads related to short-term loans in order to protect people from misleading claims. For short-term loans, we require advertisers to disclose fine-print details such as overall fees and annual percentage rate, as well as implications for late and non-payment.

Bad ads are declining
The numbers show we’re having success. In 2011, advertisers submitted billions of ads to Google, and of those, we disabled more than 130 million ads. And our systems continue to improve—in fact, in 2011 we reduced the percentage of bad ads by more than 50% compared with 2010. That means that our methods are working. We’re also catching the vast majority of these scam ads before they ever appear on Google or on any of our partner networks. For example, in 2011, we shut down approximately 150,000 accounts for attempting to advertise counterfeit goods, and more than 95% of these accounts were discovered through our own detection efforts and risk models.

Here’s David Baker, Engineering Director, who can explain more about how we detect and remove scam ads:



What you can do to help
If you’re an advertiser, we encourage you to review our policies that aim to protect users, so you can help keep the web safe. For everyone else, our Good to Know site has lots of advice, including tips for avoiding scams anywhere on the Internet. You can also report ads you believe to be fraudulent or in violation of our policies and, if needed, file a complaint with the appropriate agency as listed in our Web Search Help Center.

Online advertising is the commercial lifeblood of the web, so it’s vital that people can trust the ads on Google and the Internet overall. We’ll keep posting more information here about our efforts, and developments, in this area.

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We’re excited to have Robert J. Lang here to talk about today’s doodle in honor of Akira Yoshizawa. Lang is considered one of the world’s masters of the art of origami. His design techniques are used by origami artists around the world, and he lectures widely on the connections between origami art, science, mathematics and technology. - Ed.

Akira Yoshizawa (1911–2005) is widely regarded as the father of the modern origami art form. Over the course of his life, he created tens of thousands of origami works and pioneered many of the artistic techniques used by modern-day origami artists, most notably the technique of wet-folding, which allowed the use of thick papers and created soft curves, gentle shapes and rounded, organic forms. He also developed a notation for origami that has now been the standard for origami instruction for more than 50 years.

Yoshizawa took up Japan's traditional folk art of origami in his 20s, and eventually left his job at a factory to focus full-time on his origami creations. His work came to the attention of the west in 1955, after an exhibition of his works in Amsterdam, and rapidly spread around the world. In his last decades, he received worldwide renown and invitations from all over, culminating in his award in 1983 of the Order of the Rising Sun.

I had the great fortune to meet Yoshizawa several times. In 1988, he came to New York to visit The Friends of the Origami Center of America, and spoke at a panel discussion I attended. There, he addressed a wide range of topics: one's mental attitude, the importance of character, of natural qualities, of having one's "spirit within [the artwork's] folds." Although he was the consummate artist, his work and approach was infused with the mathematical and geometric underpinnings of origami as well as a deep aesthetic sense:
“My origami creations, in accordance with the laws of nature, require the use of geometry, science, and physics. They also encompass religion, philosophy, and biochemistry. Over all, I want you to discover the joy of creation by your own hand…the possibility of creation from paper is infinite.”
While there were other Japanese artists who explored their country’s folk art contemporaneously with Yoshizawa, his work inspired the world through a combination of grace, beauty, variety and clarity of presentation. To him, each figure, even if folded from the same basic plan, was a unique object with a unique character.

In 1992, I was invited to address the Nippon Origami Association at their annual meeting in Japan, and my hosts arranged for me to meet the great Yoshizawa at his home and studio. When I was ushered into the inner sanctum, Yoshizawa greeted me, grinning, and then proceeded to show me box after box after drawer of the most extraordinarily folded works I had ever seen.



When I was first approached by Google to help create a doodle commemorating Yoshizawa’s work, I jumped at the chance. Google set the parameters of the design: the Google logo, of course, but to be folded with origami and then decorated with examples of Yoshizawa's designs.

I created examples of two logo styles for Google to choose from: one in a classic origami style and a more three-dimensional version based on pleats. Google liked the pleated version, so I set about designing and folding the rest.


Two versions of the Google "G," each folded from a single sheet of paper.

To design these (or any letterform in this style), one can take a narrow strip of paper, fold it back and forth to trace the outline of the desired letter, unfold it, mark the creases, then arrange multiple copies of the strip pattern on a larger rectangle. The resulting crease pattern is moderately complex, and it gives a lovely 3-D form when folded, but conceptually, it is quite straightforward.

If you’d like to try to create your own origami doodle at home, you can download PDFs of the crease patterns for each of the letters. Print them out and fold on the lines: red=valley fold, blue=mountain.

Google

The butterflies in the doodle are folded from one of Yoshizawa's earliest, yet most iconic designs. It is deceptive in its simplicity, but can express great subtlety in its shaping and attitude. The combination of simplicity and depth is part of the essence of origami, and is key to Yoshizawa's work and legacy.

"Geometry alone is not enough to portray human desires, expressions, aspirations, joys. We need more." — Akira Yoshizawa, 1988

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Today, we're opening up registration for Google Code Jam 2012. This year thousands of students, professional programmers and freelance code wizards will pit their ingenuity against a new set of algorithmic challenges concocted by our tireless team of red-eyed, LED-illuminated problem writers.

Last year’s champion, Makoto Soejima, was asked to build a house for kittens, serve food to hungry mathematicians, escape from a shady casino and help Goro control his anger. Who knows what our problem writers have on their minds this year?

Code Jam is a world-wide programming competition in which contestants may use any programming language to solve algorithmic problems. The qualification round takes place April 13, followed by three online rounds in the following months. At the end of it all, the top 25 contestants will be invited to Google’s New York office on July 27 for a final match up and a chance to win $10,000. If you are up for the challenge, throw your hat into the ring now.

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It’s not every day that a Prime Minister visits your office. Today, Googlers in our Brussels office were honoured by a visit from Belgium’s Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo to celebrate and revive the memory of two unique Belgian inventors and pioneers.



Decades before the creation of the World Wide Web, Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine envisaged a paper archival system of the world’s information. They built a giant international documentation centre called Mundaneum, with the goal of preserving peace by assembling knowledge and making it accessible to the entire world. For us at Google, this mission sounds familiar.

The two Mundaneum founders met in 1895 and created the modern library universal decimal classification system, building from John Dewey’s early work. When La Fontaine won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1913 for his work as an activist in the international peace movement, he invested his winnings into the Mundaneum project, which was already underway. La Fontaine and Otlet collected 3-by-5 inch index cards to build a vast paper database which eventually contained some 16 million entries, covering everything from the history of hunting dogs to finance. The Belgian government granted them space in a government building and Otlet established a fee-based research service that allowed anyone in the world to submit a query via mail or telegraph. Inquiries poured in from all over the world.

World War II and the deaths of La Fontaine in 1943 and Otlet in 1944 slowed the project. Although many of these archives were stored away, some of them in the Brussels subway, volunteers kept the dream alive. In 1998, Belgium’s French community government revived the Mundaneum’s memory, bringing most of the archives to a beautiful Art Deco building in the city of Mons.



That brings us to today. The Prime Minister came to our office to announce a major partnership with the Mundaneum and the University of Ghent. Google will sponsor and partner in both the upcoming exhibition at the Mundaneum headquarters in Mons and a speaker series on Internet issues at the Mundaneum and the University of Ghent. Web pioneers Louis Pouzin and Robert Cailliau are already scheduled to speak.

Mundaneum will use Google to present and promote its conferences and exhibitions. It has also constructed an online tour of its dazzling premises. At today’s event in the Google Brussels office, Prime Minister Di Rupo said he hopes that the Google-Mundaneum cooperation becomes a “wonderful forum for experimentation.” Di Rupo himself is passionate about the Mundaneum; as mayor of Mons, he was instrumental in preserving the archive.

If information was important a century ago, it is even more important in the 21st century. In his remarks, the Prime Minister made the connection between the past and the future, and called on Belgium to embrace the digital economy. We showed him our recently-launched Belgian version of Street View. In Belgium, the Internet accounts for 2.5 percent of GDP—and its contribution is expected to grow by more than 10 percent a year for the next five years. “If all our companies could take better advantages of these new technologies, its sure that our exports would get a boost,” Di Rupo said.

Our partnership with Mundaneum is part of a larger project to revive the memory of Europe’s computing pioneers. Europe played a crucial role in the invention of computers and the Internet, yet all too often has forgotten its innovators. Last year marked the 60th anniversary of LEO, the world’s first business computer, built by J.Lyons & Co, a leading British food manufacturer at the time that also ran a famous chain of tea shops. This past December, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the formal recognition of Ukraine’s Sergey Lebedev’s pioneering MESM project. We’ve also given our support to help restore Bletchley Park, the site of the U.K.’s wartime codebreaking and home of Colossus, the world’s first electronic programmable computer.

Now we’re moving to the heart of Europe. “This is a beautiful story between Google and us, which allows allows us to recognize the the memory of the Mundaneum,” says the Mundaneum’s director Jean-Paul Deplus. For Google, it’s just as exciting to rediscover our own roots.

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This year marks the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, celebrating Her Majesty’s 60 years on the throne. To commemorate this special occasion, we’re teaming up with Historypin to launch an interactive online gallery filled with memories of her time as Queen.


The Pinning The Queen’s History project will be made up of photographic images, videos and audio clips pinned directly onto a Google Map on the dedicated Historypin site. This will let you see historical images in modern context within Google Maps.

Throughout her six decades on the throne, The Queen has undertaken hundreds of visits around the United Kingdom and 261 official overseas visits to 116 different countries. Historypin is inviting people from around the world to submit photos, videos and other memories of The Queen during these visits.


Using Google Maps and Street View, the Historypin platform enables you to pinpoint the exact location of where the imagery was captured. They’ll be overlaid onto Street View, so you can compare glimpses of the Queen’s 60-year reign with how they look today.


The collection has been boosted by the provision of images from The Queen’s overseas visits taken by press photographers, and by photographs of items from the Buckingham Palace’s Royal Archives. Items from the Royal Archives include the sitar presented to The Queen during her visit to India in 1997, an earthenware vase presented to the Queen by the Prime Minister of Japan and a map showing the air routes around South Australia during the 1954 Commonwealth Tour.

The interactive gallery is an opportunity for anyone to contribute to and celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee on one global platform. We’re honoured that Google Maps can form the foundation of this official gallery.

Submit your memories of The Queen at www.historypin.com/DiamondJubilee/.



(Cross-posted from the Lat Long Blog)

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Meghana Musunuri was a typical female entrepreneur in India. Born and brought up in Medak, she received a good education and spent time abroad both studying and working. Eventually, she decided to return to India and make a difference in her native country. After teaching in London for more than eight years, Meghana opened the Fountainhead School in Hyderabad in 2009. Meghana was smart, driven and passionate, but like many of her contemporaries in India, she needed guidance on how to use the web to broaden her business and her education mission. To help Meghana and the many other women entrepreneurs like her, we recently launched Women Entrepreneurs on the Web (WEOW).

Women Entrepreneurs on the Web teaches participants how to use web-based technologies to improve and grow their businesses. WEOW is divided into five different units or “circles,” all designed for women entrepreneurs with varied degrees of online presence and expertise. Entrepreneurs at various stages in their startups can enter the program through any of these circles.
  1. Building an online presence: creating a website, a YouTube channel, and a business page on a social network like Google+
  2. Collaborating effectively: tools like Gmail, Calendar and Docs
  3. Connecting with customers: hosting Google+ Hangouts, creating and distributing targeted offers and discounts
  4. Promoting your organization: online product demos, creating viral videos on YouTube, advertising through AdWords and AdSense
  5. Tracking and optimizing your online presence: Google Analytics, Google Alerts, ripples on Google+, the +1 button, webmaster tools
Meghana completed all five circles of the program and today, her school is completely online. She’s hosted several Google+ Hangouts for students and parents from the Fountainhead School’s Google+ page and is also using the page to post news, resources and recaps of in-person workshops. There’s more from Meghana on what she learned from the WEOW program in this video.

Rupa Aurangabadkar, another WEOW participant, recently launched a design company, Colorquill. She’s now working on a series of digital videos that will showcase each step of creating a mural and will distribute them via her YouTube channel. Archana Doshi of Archanas Kitchen has started offering cooking classes online via Google+ Hangouts. She also plans to have guest chefs sign up to offer culinary lessons via her website.

As part of our launch event at Google Hyderabad, Yolanda Mangolini, our head of diversity and inclusion, spent time with 30 women entrepreneurs. During this meet-and-greet, she highlighted company initiatives that focus on female empowerment, like the Google Anita Borg India Memorial Scholarships, Grace Hopper Celebrations and several outreach programs run by the Women@Google employee group. She also talked about our goal to build an organization that reflects its globally diverse users. Watch the highlights in the video below:



For updates on WEOW India, visit our website and YouTube channel. To date, we’ve had more than 300 women sign up for WEOW, and we plan to roll out WEOW to more offices and countries in the future.

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Four years ago we first outlined our approach to removing content from Google products and services. Nothing has changed since then, but given World Day Against Cyber-Censorship is coming up on Monday, March 12, we figured now was a good time for a refresher. Here goes.

At Google, we have a bias in favor of free expression—not just because it’s a key tenet of free societies, but also because more information generally means more choice, more power, more economic opportunity and more freedom for people. As Article 19 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

That said, we recognize that there are limits. In some areas it’s obvious where to draw the line. For example, we have an all-product ban on child pornography. But in other areas, like extremism, it gets complicated because our products are available in numerous countries with widely varying laws and cultures.

For Search—where we are simply indexing content—we take down as little as possible because helping people find information goes to the heart of our mission. We remove webpages from our search index when required by law, and we post a notice to Chilling Effects when we do so. For example, if we’re notified about specific pages that glorify Nazism, which is prohibited by German law, then we remove those specific pages from Google.de (our German domain).

For products like Blogger, orkut, Google+ and YouTube—where we host the content—we encourage users to express themselves freely, but we also want to ensure that people behave responsibly, so we set guidelines covering the use of our different services. For example, no hate speech, no copyright-infringing content, no death threats, no incitement to violence. And when we’re notified about content that either violates those guidelines or breaks the law—for example, we receive a court order—we will remove it, or restrict it in the country where it’s illegal. Earlier this year, for example, we removed a number of specific webpages from Google properties in India after a court ruled that they violated Indian law.

One final point—none of this is simple. Dealing with controversial content is, well…controversial. It’s why we always start from the principle that more information is better, and why we’ve worked hard to be transparent about the removals we make.

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I made my first visit to the Gulf Coast as a Red Cross shelter manager six weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. What I witnessed there made me believe in the potential for individuals and businesses to come together to rebuild a community devastated by disaster. Every year since, I’ve returned to New Orleans to engage in and lead much of Google’s commitment to the area, which has included the direct use of Google Earth to aid in rescue efforts, search tools to help during the aftermath and many service hours put in by Google volunteers.

Almost seven years later, I find myself amazed at the recovery and revitalization of the entire region, specifically in New Orleans. The city has come to embody a spirit of perseverance and evolved into a model for economic and community redevelopment. In 2010, Google provided $102 million of economic activity for Louisiana businesses, website publishers and nonprofits—and there’s still more work to do. Next week, we’re heading back to NOLA once again, this time to serve as the Premier Partner for the fourth annual New Orleans Entrepreneurship Week (NOEW).

Our support for NOEW is diverse and wide-ranging. Among other activities, we’re providing seed grants to up-and-coming educational entrepreneurs in the Education Entrepreneurship Challenge, as well as hosting “Google 101” (and 201) workshops for entrepreneurs and one-on-one Google Office Hours for small business owners. On Saturday, March 10, we’ll be working with Brad Pitt’s foundation, Make It Right, to help the organization engage with supporters globally during their NOEW charity event. At 8:00pm ET the Make It Right Google+ Page will host a live hangout with Brad Pitt and special guests Ellen DeGeneres, Randy Jackson and Aziz Ansari. Following the hangout, real time updates from the evening will be posted exclusively on the Google+ page, and visitors can view photos, ask questions of celebrity guests and watch videos from the evening.

Our sponsorship of NOEW 2012 is one piece of our ongoing work supporting entrepreneurship in New Orleans. Other support includes bringing a major partner, Startup Weekend, to NOLA as well as increasing Accelerate with Google in the region. We look forward to contributing to the entrepreneurship ecosystem to provide real economic opportunities for the New Orleans community, its people and its businesses.

I look at the week ahead as a celebration of the potential that one person has to make a difference—one volunteer, one business owner, one celebrity, even you. What I know for sure is that this one person is looking forward to returning to a city that has captured her heart through its people, its spirit, its music and ah yes, most definitely the food. Hope to see y’all there soon!

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This year, digital advertising turns 18. Over nearly two decades, waves of innovation have transformed the medium—it’s come a long way since the blinking banner ads of the early Internet. But we think the most exciting changes are still to come, as marketers and agencies increasingly embrace technology to enable new types of creativity, and build online ads that don’t simply inform, but delight and engage their audience.

For example, what if an online ad could bring together two strangers on opposite sides of the globe? Or let you follow a real-life adventure as it unfolds? We wanted to find out. So we started an experiment, both to celebrate 18 years of online innovation, and to link advertising’s digital future to its storied past: Project Re: Brief.

We started with four iconic ad campaigns from the 1960s and ‘70s from Alka-Seltzer, Avis, Coca-Cola and Volvo, each considered groundbreaking in its day. The advertising legends who made the original ads then came out of retirement to rethink their original “brief,” this time, using the full range of technological tools at their disposal, to reach consumers in today’s digitally connected world.



Here are previews of two of the re-imagined ads:

Coca-Cola
Original Art Director: Harvey Gabor

A Coca-Cola can connect people. This was the idea behind a 1971 ad in which young people from all over the world stood on a hilltop singing, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke, and keep it company.” But imagine being able to walk past a vending machine in New York and finding out that a stranger in Tokyo actually sent you a free Coke. Technology can make this possible by linking online ads to real-world devices, like vending machines, in real time. The new ads let you record a video or text message and send it, along with a free Coke, to special vending machines in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Capetown, South Africa; New York, NY; and Mountain View, Calif. The recipient can also record a message from the machine and send it right back. To see how this ad was brought to life, watch this short film.



Volvo
Original Art Director: Amil Gargano
A Volvo is so durable, you can “Drive it Like You Hate It,” according to a 1962 series of print and TV ads. The re-imagined ads center on the durability of one particular Volvo—that of Irv Gordon, who has had his car since 1966 and put a world-record 2.9 million miles on it, so far. In these ads, you can join Irv on his journey to reach 3 million miles. Starting with colorful stories from his past and a live feed of his car’s odometer, you can interact with him through Google+, and recreate some of Irv’s favorite routes throughout the U.S. on Google Maps. Watch the behind-the-scenes story in this short documentary.



We’ll have more to share from this experiment soon. In the meantime, these are just a few examples of how agencies and brand marketers are harnessing technology to rethink what ads can be and make the web work for them (not the other way around). To learn more about the project, visit projectrebrief.com. And if you’re planning on attending SXSW, stop by the Discovery House at the Google Village to see demos of these campaigns, or attend a talk.