Google maps and blog.
17 Dec 2019, 5:00 pm | Google LatLong
Imagine ending homelessness, solving climate change, or guaranteeing a sustainable future for the world. Nonprofits work hard to make these goals a reality. They tackle the most urgent issues facing society, and Google products help make their missions more visible and far-reaching. Let’s look at three ways the nonprofit community thrived in 2019 with the support of Google for Nonprofits and partner teams.
1. Staying in the know
Followers of Google for Nonprofits’ monthly newsletters and livestreams enjoyed a steady stream of news and tips about Google products. They learned how to spread their messages on YouTube, how to make a bigger impact with Google Earth and Maps, and gained insights from Google Analytics.
Nonprofits also learned from each other. Thrive DC shared their mission to end homelessness in Washington, D.C., and how Google for Nonprofits helped them drastically improve their efficiency and productivity. GoVolunteer described how Google helps them grow and develop inclusion programs for immigrants and refugees in Germany.
Along with hearing these inspiring stories, nonprofits asked questions and supported each other on the newly launched Google for Nonprofits community forum. And they discovered an updated Google for Nonprofits site that’s more useful for everyone, including visitors with accessibility needs.
2. Connecting with the community
Sixty-five nonprofits attended a day-long workshop that Google for Nonprofits held at Google’s Community Space in San Francisco. They received training on using YouTube to spread awareness and heard Invisible People speak about building empathy and support for those affected by homelessness.
In April, attendees of Google Cloud Next listened to the Google for Nonprofits team discuss how G Suite empowers nonprofits to collaborate and communicate more effectively. Two nonprofits also shared their experiences and best practices (watch the recording).
3. Putting themselves (and trees) on the map
In 2019, around 2,000 nonprofits across 59 countries used Google Maps Platform credits to raise their profiles and encourage others to join their mission.
Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms USA, which helps travelers find and work on organic farms, added Maps to their site so visitors could zoom in on any area in the U.S., see all the available farms and filter their search to narrow in on the right farms for them. After the switch to Google Maps Platform, WWOOF-USA’s page views increased to 8 million and the number of paying members nearly tripled since May 2018.
Get into the holiday spirit with Google
Here's how Google products can help this holiday season.View all 15 articles
People also relied on YouTube to get more eyes on fundraising campaigns. In October, YouTube creator Mr. Beast vowed to get 20 million trees planted by the end of the year. The campaign, #TeamTrees, engaged other YouTube creators to promote the effort. More than 200 creators either posted videos about #TeamTrees or promoted it by using YouTube Giving.
We’re looking forward to more partnerships and stories in 2020. To stay up to date on all the latest nonprofit news, you can subscribe to our newsletter and YouTube channel, and join us at the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Maryland this March where we’ll be a platinum sponsor.
16 Dec 2019, 10:00 am | Google LatLong
A couple of years ago I turned 50, which seemed like the perfect time to visit our family doctor for a checkup. The verdict was: "You need more exercise, Jan." (Not really surprising for someone who has a desk job.)
At first, I bought a decent bicycle and used it occasionally, but pretty soon those occasions started to decrease significantly. I also enjoy hiking in the countryside with my wife, but with two busy schedules to manage, that isn’t always possible.
During one of those hikes, however, I was testing the camera on my new smartphone. All of a sudden, a pop-up appeared asking me if I would like to upload the picture I had just taken to Google Maps. I tapped “Yes,” a decision that would change my life.
After about a week, another notification popped up to tell me that my photo had already been viewed 70 times, which came as a total surprise. Digging a bit deeper, I discovered that this was the result of a program called Local Guides, where people add their own information to Google Maps. It was open to anyone 18 and over with a Google account: All I had to do was sign up and start adding information, and I became a Level 1 Local Guide. Not only could Local Guides upload pictures, but they could also write reviews of local businesses and edit information (like opening hours or telephone numbers). They could even add missing places to Google Maps.
Pretty soon I was making Local Guide trips. I strolled through nearby cities, smartphone in hand (I quickly added a spare battery pack to my shopping list), taking a picture here, adding a newly opened bakery there.
A few weeks into it, I discovered exactly how helpful my new hobby could be when my stepdaughter got completely lost during a trip to a nearby town. Her destination was an office that had recently moved to a new location. And although the street address had technically been updated on Maps, the map marker (the red pin showing the exact location on the map) hadn’t been moved. It led her to the old address (with 5% battery life and 95% anxiety). Now that I’d been a Local Guide for a little while, I could simply drag and drop the pin to the new location. Within seconds, it was available to anyone searching for it.
Thanks to all those health-conscious walking trips, I’ve made thousands of contributions (it helps that you get points for each contribution and thereby rise to higher Local Guide levels). And I’ve discovered a vibrant community of Local Guides who come together online and at occasional meetups in real life. I was recently invited to attend the biggest meetup of them all, Connect Live at Google’s headquarters in California. I had the opportunity to talk with some of the Maps team members in Mountain View, and meet 199 other Guides who are as passionate about this hobby as I am.
Looking back on that doctor’s visit now, it’s possibly the best advice I ever received.
13 Dec 2019, 5:00 pm | Google LatLong
Earlier this year, we gave you a look at how Google Maps maps the world. Today, we’ll dive deeper into a main ingredient of the map making process– imagery–and how it powers one of our most popular features.
More than just pictures
When you think of imagery and Google Maps, you probably think of the Street View cars and trekkers that collect billions of images from all around the world. Today, we’ve captured more than 10 million miles of Street View imagery–a distance that could circle the globe more than 400 times!
Or your thoughts may jump to Google Earth, our platform that lets you browse more than 36 million square miles of high definition satellite images from various providers–covering more than 98% of the entire population–to see the world from above. While these stunning photos show us parts of the world we may never get a chance to visit, they also help Google Maps accurately model a world that is changing each day.
How we collect imagery: cars, trekkers, flocks of sheep and laser beams
Gathering imagery is no small task. It can take anywhere from days to weeks, and requires a fleet of Street View cars, each equipped with nine cameras that capture high-definition imagery from every vantage point possible. These cameras are athermal, meaning that they’re designed to handle extreme temperatures without changing focus so they can function in a range of environments—- from Death Valley during the peak of the summer to the snowy mountains of Nepal in the winter. Each Street View car includes its own photo processing center and lidar sensors that use laser beams to accurately measure distance.
How we process imagery: a vintage technique made new
Once we’ve collected photos, we use a technique called photogrammetry to align and stitch together a single set of images. These images show us critically important details about an area–things like roads, lane markings, buildings and rivers, along with the precise distance between each of these objects. All of this information is gathered without ever needing to set foot in the location itself.
Photogrammetry is not new. While it originated in the early 1900s, Google’s approach is unique in that it utilizes billions of images, similar to putting a giant jigsaw puzzle together that spans the entire globe. By refining our photogrammetry technique over the last 10 years, we’re now able to align imagery from multiple sources–Street View, aerial, and satellite imagery, along with authoritative datasets–with accuracy down to the meter.
How Google Maps uses imagery: (hint - it’s everywhere)
Photos are great, but how are they useful for someone using Google Maps? Well, imagery is woven into every product that Maps provides.
Live View, for example, is a tool that uses augmented reality to show you which way to walk, with large arrows and directions overlaid on top of walking navigation. For Live View to work, Google Maps needs to know two things: where your phone is located, and where this location is relative to the rest of your surroundings. Live View requires orientation precision down to just a few degrees, which simply isn’t possible using traditional tools like GPS signals. Being off by a short distance is fine when you’re driving, but this discrepancy can actually point you in the entirely wrong direction when you’re traveling on foot!
This is where imagery comes in. To see the most precise location possible, Live View uses a new technology invented at Google called global localization that matches up tens of billions of Street View images with what is on your phone to help you identify where you are and which way you should go – all in under half a second!
The idea of Street View started as a side project more than 12 years ago as part of a lofty goal to map the entire world. Since then, Street View combined with satellite and aerial imagery has become the foundation of our entire map making process and the reason why we can build useful products that people turn to every single day. Mapmaking is never done–and we’re constantly working to build new tools and techniques to make imagery collection faster, more accurate and safer for everyone.
Join us for our next deep dive in the series to learn more about how we work to create a more useful, up-to-date map.
13 Dec 2019, 10:00 am | Google LatLong
When it comes to travel, I’m a planner. I’m content to spend weeks preparing the perfect holiday getaway: deciding on the ideal destination, finding the cheapest flights and sniffing out the best accommodations. I’ve been dreaming about a trip to Greece next year, and—true story—I’ve already got a spreadsheet to compare potential destinations, organized by flight length and hotel perks.
But the thing I don’t like to do is plot out the nitty-gritty details. I want to visit the important museums and landmarks, but I don’t want to write up a daily itinerary ahead of time. I’m a vegetarian, so I need to find veggie-friendly restaurants, but I’d prefer to stumble upon a good local spot than plan in advance. And, since I don’t speak Greek, I want to be able to navigate transportation options without having to stop and ask people for help all the time.
So I’ve come to rely on some useful Google tools to make my trips work for the way I like to travel. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Let Maps do the talking
Getting dropped into a new city is disorienting, and all the more so when you need to ask for help but don’t know how to pronounce the name of the place you’re trying to get to. Google Maps now has a fix for this: When you’ve got a place name up in Maps, just press the new little speaker button next to it, and it will speak out a place's name and address in the local lingo. And if you want to continue the conversation, Google Maps will quickly link you to the Google Translate app.
Let your phone be your guidebook
New cities are full of new buildings, new foods and even new foliage. But I don’t want to just see these things; I want to learn more about them. That’s where Google Lens comes in as my know-it-all tour guide and interpreter. It can translate a menu, tell me about the landmark I’m standing in front of or identify a tree I’ve never seen before. So whenever I think, “I wonder what that building is for,” I can just use my camera to get an answer in real time.
Get translation help on the go
The Google Assistant’s real-time translation feature, interpreter mode, is now available on Android and iOS phones worldwide, enabling you to have a conversation with someone speaking a foreign language. So if I say, “Hey Google, be my Greek translator,” I can easily communicate with, say, a restaurant server who doesn’t speak English. Interpreter mode works across 44 languages, and it features different ways to communicate suited to your situation: you can type using a keyboard for quiet environments, or manually select what language to speak.
Use your voice to get things done
Typing is fine, but talking is easier, especially when I’m on vacation and want to make everything as simple as possible. The Google Assistant makes it faster to find what I’m looking for and plan what’s next, like weather forecasts, reminders and wake-up alarms. It can also help me with conversions, like “Hey Google, how much is 20 Euros in pounds?”
Take pics, then chill
When I’m in a new place, my camera is always out. But sorting through all those pictures is the opposite of relaxing. So I offload that work onto Google Photos: It backs up my photos for free and lets me search for things in them . And when I want to see all the photos my partner has taken, I can create an album that we can both add photos to. And Photos will remind me of our vacation in the future, too, with story-style highlights at the top of the app.
I live in a big city, which means I don’t get to see the stars much. Traveling somewhere a little less built up means I can hone my Pixel 4 astrophotography skills. It’s easy to use something stable, like a wall, as a makeshift tripod, and then just let the camera do its thing.
As useful as my phone is, I try to be mindful about putting it down and ignoring it as much as I can. And that goes double for when I’m on vacation. Android phones have a whole assortment of Digital Wellbeing features to help you disconnect. My favorite is definitely flip to shhh: Just place your phone screen-side down and it silences notifications until you pick it back up.
Get into the holiday spirit with Google
Here's how Google products can help this holiday season.View all 15 articles
10 Dec 2019, 8:00 am | Google LatLong
This week, governments and NGOs from across the globe are convening at COP25, the United Nations climate conference in Madrid, to discuss the latest efforts to fight climate change. Addressing this pressing issue on a global scale requires urgent action from countries, communities and businesses. At COP25 we shared how Google is focused on building sustainability into everything that we do and making it possible for everyone to build a more sustainable world.
As cities now account for more than 70 percent of global emissions, we believe that empowering city governments with comprehensive, climate-relevant data and technology can play a critical role in igniting action.
One way we are doing this is with partners like the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. We’ve brought our online tool, the Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE),to cities across the world, providing high-resolution data to measure greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and take informed action to reduce CO2 emissions. As of today, EIE has now expanded to more than 100 cities worldwide.
Empowering local action in cities worldwide
As we look beyond our latest efforts to equip cities with more comprehensive data, we’re also exploring how we can help communities turn these insights into action at the local level.
To further accelerate climate action, Google.org is launching a new $4 million fund in collaboration with ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability.Grants from the fund will support nonprofits and academic institutions in Europe and Latin America that are leading data-driven climate action efforts.
The first grantee is Iniciativa Climática de México (ICM), a Mexico-based nonprofit organization that catalyzes international climate policy at the national and city levels to reduce emissions of GHGs and promotes low carbon growth in Mexico. Grant funds will be allocated to their “Hogar Solar” program. This program channels government spending on electricity towards the installation of solar panels to help increase access to power for those facing energy poverty, provide cleaner energy sources and reduce overall electricity costs.
Data-driven initiatives like this are essential to addressing climate change and are needed at a global scale. As we fund more grantees, we will share what we learn on how to best engage in data-backed sustainability planning and action.
Translating global insights
EIE relies on anonymous, highly aggregated mapping data and standard GHG emission factors to estimate city building and transportation carbon emissions, as well as solar energy potential. We’re already seeing the early impacts of cities putting the power of EIE data behind climate plans, from bike-friendly initiatives to solar programs.
While EIE has officially published data for 100 cities, the EIE team has processed climate-relevant data across an initial sample of 3,000 cities to produce emission insights from approximately 95 million buildings and nearly 3 trillion kilometers traveled.
Our analysis found that cities can have a huge impact in protecting our climate:
Making environmental information available will continue to be critical as cities, communities and companies worldwide band together to address climate change. We’re committed to doing our part, and want to extend our thanks to the forward-looking city officials and climate leaders collaborating with us on this project.
9 Dec 2019, 5:00 pm | Google LatLong
People turn to Google Maps to make their lives easier—whether it's getting tips and recommendations tailored to your daily commute, or knowing when your favorite restaurants, grocery stores and places may be the most crowded so you can avoid a long wait in line. Handy tools like this are improved by Location History–when you turn it on, this optional setting helps make Maps more useful for everyone, as well as personalized to your needs.
Throughout this year, we've focused on making it easier to control, manage and delete your Location History information. Location History is off by default, and you can choose to delete all or part of your history automatically when you turn it on. We introduced auto-delete controls so you can choose to keep only three or 18 months’ worth of data—anything older than that will be automatically deleted. Your Data in Maps lets you quickly access your Location History and other privacy controls with just a few taps. And on Android, Incognito mode on Google Maps stops searches or places you navigate to within Maps from being saved to your Google Account.
Today, we have two updates: Incognito mode is rolling out on Google Maps for iOS today, and bulk delete in Timeline will arrive on Android next month.
Incognito mode on iOS works the same way it does on Android. While in Incognito mode, the places you search for or navigate to won’t be saved to your Google Account and you won’t see personalized features within Maps, like restaurant recommendations based on dining spots you’ve been to previously. Using Incognito mode on your phone will not update your Location History, so the places you go won’t be saved to your Timeline.
Bulk delete in Timeline
Your Timeline is a tool that uses your Location History to help you easily remember places and routes you’ve visited–and on Android, share them with friends. With bulk delete, you can quickly find and delete multiple places from your Timeline and Location History all at once. You’ll still have the ability to delete all or part of your Timeline by date range from your Location History settings.
How Location History improves Google Maps
We’re committed to providing simple, easy-to-use tools to manage your Location History—as well as clearly explaining how it makes products more useful. Scroll through the images below to learn more about Google Maps features made more helpful by Location History.
Stay up to date on your Location History settings
It’s our goal to help you stay informed about your Location History. If you’ve chosen to turn Location History on, you’ll receive periodic email reminders that let you know what data you’re saving, and ways you can manage it.
To learn more about Location History and how location works across Google, visit ourpolicy page.
9 Dec 2019, 2:00 pm | Google LatLong
Your phone should get better over time. Your Pixel automatically updates regularly with fixes and improvements. Now, your Pixel will also get bigger updates in new Pixel feature drops. Our first one, coming this month, includes a new way to capture portraits, easier Duo calls and automatic call screening.
More photo controls
Now, you can turn a photo into a portrait on Pixel by blurring the background post-snap. So whether you took the photo years ago, or you forgot to turn on portrait mode, you can easily give each picture an artistic look with Portrait Blur in Google Photos.
Put an end to robocalls
With our latest update to Call Screen on Pixel 4 in the US, the Google Assistant now helps you automatically screen unknown callers and filter out detected robocalls before your phone ever rings, so you’re not interrupted by them. And when it’s not a robocall, your phone rings a few moments later with helpful context about who is calling and why. Call Screen works on your device and does not use Wi-Fi or data, which makes the screening fast and the content private to you.
Improved video calls on Duo
Video calls are better on Pixel 4 with new Duo features that let you focus on conversations instead of logistics. Auto-framing keeps your face centered during your Duo video calls, even as you move around, thanks to Pixel 4’s wide-angle lens. And if another person joins you in the shot, the camera automatically adjusts to keep both of you in the frame.
Now, the playback on your Duo calls is even smoother, too. When a bad connection leads to spotty audio, a machine learning model on your Pixel 4 predicts the likely next sound and helps you to keep the conversation going with minimum disruptions. Pixel 4’s Smooth Display also reduces choppiness on your video feed, refreshing up to 90 times a second.
When you make Duo video calls on Pixel 2, 3 and 4, you can now apply a portrait filter as well. You’ll look sharper against the gentle blur of your background, while the busy office or messy bedroom behind you goes out of focus.
More helpful features for more Pixels
In addition to new features for Pixel 4, we’re also bringing new apps and features to Pixel 2, 3 and 3a:
- The Recorder app is now available on older generations of Pixel.
- Pixel 3 and 3a users will get Live Caption.
- Digital Wellbeing is getting updates too. Focus mode is rolling out to help you stay productive and minimize distractions by pausing apps you've selected in a single tap. You can now set an automatic schedule, take a short break or end Focus mode early without disrupting your schedule.
- Flip to Shhh will also join the Digital Wellbeing features on Pixel 2 and 2XL.
- If you use a Pixel 4 in the UK, Canada, Ireland, Singapore and Australia, you’ll soon get the new Google Assistant (English only), which is even faster and more helpful.
- With the latest update to Pixel 4, you'll also get amazingly fast accuracy in Google Maps with improved on-device computing for much better location quality.
A more efficient phone
In addition to these new experiences, all Pixel devices will also receive an update to its memory management in the feature drop. With this new enhancement, your phone proactively compresses cached applications so that users can run multiple applications at the same time -- like games, streaming content and more.
Pixel phones have always received monthly updates to improve performance and make your device safe. Now, feature drops will bring more helpful and fun features to users on a regular basis to continue to make your Pixel better than ever.
These features are already rolling out, and will hit Pixel devices in the coming weeks. To get the new features, update to the latest version of Android and go to the Play Store to start downloading your updated apps.
3 Dec 2019, 5:00 pm | Google LatLong
If you visit a city and don’t see anyone using a wheelchair, it doesn’t mean they’re not there. It means the city hasn’t been built in such a way as to let them be part of things. I know this firsthand: I’m one of 65 million people around the world who uses a wheelchair, and I see every day how a city’s infrastructure can prevent people like me from being active, visible members of society.
On July 29, 2009, I was taking my usual morning walk through New York’s Central Park when a dead tree branch snapped and fell on my head. The spinal damage partly paralyzed my lower body. I spent the next seven months in the hospital, where I got the first glimpse of what my life would be like from then on. I was going to use a wheelchair for the rest of my life—and my experience as a born and bred New Yorker was about to change forever.
That’s because much of the city isn’t accessible for people like me. Fewer than one in four subway stations in New York City have wheelchair access. And plenty of places, from restaurants to schools, lack a way for me to even get inside. It was humbling to realize these barriers had been there throughout my growing up in New York; I simply hadn’t noticed.
Those realizations were in my mind when I returned to work in 2011 as an engineer on the Search team, especially because I could no longer take my usual subway route to work. However, the more I shared with colleagues, the more I found people who wanted to help solve real-world access needs. Using “20 percent time”—time spent outside day-to-day job descriptions—my colleagues like Rio Akasaka and Dianna Hu pitched in and we launched wheelchair-friendly transit directions. That initial work has now led to a full-time team dedicated to accessibility on Maps.
I’ve also collaborated with another group of great allies, stretching far beyond Google. For the past several years, I’ve worked with our Local Guides, a community of 120 million people worldwide who contribute information to Google Maps. By answering questions like “Does this place have a wheelchair accessible entrance,” Local Guides help people with mobility impairments decide where to go. Thanks to them, we can now provide crowdsourced accessibility information for more than 50 million places on Google Maps. At our annual event last year and againseveral weeks ago, I met some amazing Guides--like Emeka from NigeriaandIlankovan from Sri Lanka--who have become informal accessibility ambassadors themselves, promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities in their communities around the world.
Today, on International Day of Persons With Disabilities, I hope our work to make Google Maps more inclusive underscores what Angela Glover Blackwell wrote so powerfully about in “The Curb-Cut Effect.” When we build with accessibility in mind, it doesn’t just help people with disabilities. It helps everyone. Curb cuts in sidewalks don’t just help me cross the street—they also help parents pushing strollers, workers with deliveries and tourists with suitcases. As Blackwell puts it, building equity is not a zero-sum game—everyone benefits.
The people in wheelchairs you don’t see in your city? They've been shut out, and may not be able to be a part of society because their environment isn't accessible. And that’s not merely a loss for them. It’s a loss for everyone, including friends, colleagues and loved ones of people with disabilities. I’m grateful to those who stay mindful of the issues faced by people like me to ensure that our solutions truly help the greater community.
15 Nov 2019, 8:00 pm | Google LatLong
Every month, more than a billion people use Google Maps, and they’re not just looking for directions. Worldwide, people are searching for things to do: ideas for the perfect date night, an amazing local coffee joint, or their next adventure.
Across 24,000 cities and towns, we now have an active community of 120 million Local Guides on Google Maps who are passionate about sharing their experiences by contributing reviews, photos, lists and more. If you’re in Bangalore, Melvin John is a Local Guide whose reviews and recommendations will guide you through the city’s microbrewery scene. And if you’ve used Google Maps in Tokyo, Ayaka Ohkawa’s popular photography has probably helped you explore the city’s landmarks, cuisine and culture.
This week, at our annual Local Guides summit, Connect Live, we welcomed 200 of our most engaged Local Guides to celebrate their important contributions, share what's new in Google Maps and give them an opportunity to provide feedback directly to our teams.
Bringing Local Guide recommendations straight to you
One of the things we shared at Connect Live this week was that we’ll soon be piloting a new feature in Google Maps that will help people discover new places with help from top Local Guides.
People in Bangkok, Delhi, London, Mexico City, New York, Osaka, San Francisco, São Paulo and Tokyo will soon see top Local Guides featured in the For You tab of the Google Maps app. When you follow one of these Local Guides, their recommendations will be surfaced to you in Google Maps, so you can get inspired with ideas of things to do and places to go.
If you live in one of the nine test cities, keep an eye on the For You tab of Google Maps, you just might discover something new with help from a local.
13 Nov 2019, 4:00 pm | Google LatLong
Google Maps has made travel easier than ever before. You can scout out a neighborhood before booking a hotel, get directions on the go and even see what nearby restaurants the locals recommend thanks to auto-translated reviews.
But when you're in a foreign country where you don't speak or read the language, getting around can still be difficult -- especially when you need to speak with someone. Think about that anxiety-inducing time you tried to talk to a taxi driver, or that moment you tried to casually ask a passerby for directions.
To help, we're bringing Google Maps and Google Translate closer together. This month, we’re adding a new translator feature that enables your phone to speak out a place's name and address in the local lingo. Simply tap the new speaker button next to the place name or address, and Google Maps will say it out loud, making your next trip that much simpler. And when you want to have a deeper conversation, Google Maps will quickly link you to the Google Translate app.
This text-to-speech technology automatically detects what language your phone is using to determine which places you might need help translating. For instance, if your phone is set to English and you’re looking at a place of interest in Tokyo, you’ll see the new speaker icon next to the place’s name and address so you can get a real-time translation.
The new feature will be rolling out this month on Android and iOS with support for 50 languages and more on the way.