Posted:
Ciara Judge, Émer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow became interested in addressing the global food crisis after learning about the Horn of Africa famine in 2011. When a gardening project went awry, they discovered a naturally occurring bacteria in soil called Diazotroph. The girls determined that the bacteria could be used to speed up the the germination process of certain crops, like barley and oats, by 50 percent, potentially helping fulfill the rising demand for food worldwide. Oh—and they’re 16 years old.

Today, Ciara, Émer and Sophie were named the Grand Prize Winner and the 15-16 age category winners of our fourth annual Google Science Fair. They are some of thousands of students ages 13-18 who dared to ask tough questions like: How can we stop cyberbullying? How can I help my grandfather who has Alzheimer's from wandering out of bed at night? How can we protect the environment? And then they actually went out and answered them.

From thousands of submissions from 90+ countries, our panel of esteemed judges selected 18 finalists representing nine countries—Australia, Canada, France, India, Russia, U.K., Ukraine and the U.S.—who spent today impressing Googlers and local school students at our Mountain View, Calif. headquarters. In addition to our Grand Prize Winners, the winners of the 2014 Google Science Fair are:

  • 13-14 age category: Mihir Garimella (Pennsylvania, USA) for his project FlyBot: Mimicking Fruit Fly Response Patterns for Threat Evasion. Like many boys his age, Mihir is fascinated with robots. But he took it to the next level and actually built a flying robot, much like the ones used in search and rescue missions, that was inspired by the way fruit flies detect and respond to threats. Mihir is also the winner of the very first Computer Science award, sponsored by Google.
  • 17-18 age category: Hayley Todesco (Alberta, Canada) for her project Waste to Water: Biodegrading Naphthenic Acids using Novel Sand Bioreactors. Hayley became deeply interested in the environment after watching Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” Her project uses a sustainable and efficient method to break down pollutant substances and toxins found in tailing ponds water in her hometown, a hub of the oil sands industry.
  • The Scientific American Science in Action award: Kenneth Shinozuka (Brooklyn, New York) for his wearable sensors project. Kenneth was inspired by his grandfather and hopes to help others around the world dealing with Alzheimer's. The Scientific American award is given to a project that addresses a health, resource or environmental challenge.
  • Voter’s Choice award: Arsh Dilbagi (India) for his project Talk, which enables people with speech difficulties to communicate by simply exhaling.

As the Grand Prize winners, Ciara, Émer and Sophie receive a 10-day trip to the Galapagos Islands provided by National Geographic, a $50,000 scholarship from Google, a personalized LEGO prize provided by LEGO Education and the chance to participate in astronaut training at the Virgin Galactic Spaceport in the Mojave desert.

Thanks to all of our young finalists and to everyone who participated in this year’s Google Science Fair. We started the Science Fair to inspire scientific exploration among young people and celebrate the next generation of scientist and engineers. And every year we end up amazed by how much you inspire us. So, keep dreaming, creating and asking questions. We look forward to hearing the answers.

Posted:
-Welcome to this week’s search trends. May I take your order?
-Can I have a referendum on independence, a totally inappropriate flight passenger with a Hollywood baby on the side?
-Coming right up!

Flag and country
“They may take away our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!” That was Sir William Wallace battlecry for Scottish independence in the film Braveheart. While this week’s events in Scotland weren’t quite as cinematic, the results could have been revolutionary. On Thursday the world watched and searched as an unprecedented numbers of Scots went to the polls to answer the question, "Should Scotland be independent from the United Kingdom?" Turns out the majority of people don’t think it should, and voted to stay a member of the U.K. Party leaders have now promised significant constitutional changes for the entire kingdom. What would Wallace have made of that?

The comeback kings
Everybody loves a comeback and search had its fair share this week. First up, nostalgia for the 90’s brought Surge soda back from the dead. Thanks to a Facebook campaign called "The SURGE Movement," Coca-Cola will now sell its "fully-loaded citrus” soft drink for a limited time on Amazon. And the Chicago Bears denied the 49ers a win in their brand-spanking-new stadium when they rallied to overturn a 13-point deficit in the last quarter to beat San Francisco 28-20.



Airing dirty laundry
Hard plastic-y seats, broken recliner adjusters, zero leg room—flying economy isn’t always the most pleasant experience. And depending on who you’re sitting next to, your easy two-hour flight could turn into a nightmare before you even take off. But the passengers of the world aren’t having it, not anymore. This week, “passenger shaming” went viral on social media as traumatized travelers shared photos of the most absurdly obnoxious unconscientious things some passenger do on flights—we’re talking bare feet, bare skin... well, you should just see for yourself.

But at least those offending fliers were shielded in anonymity. Singer Robin Thicke wasn’t afforded the same luxury, revealing in a court deposition this week that he had little to do with the creation of last year’s song of the summer “Blurred Lines.” As part of his defense against a copyright infringement lawsuit, Thicke admitted that he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol for most of 2013—bringing a whole new meaning to the song’s title.

And the winner is ...
The hipster revolution has finally taken over the United States! Need proof? Searchers don’t. When New Yorker Kira Kazantsev won the the title of Miss America, the Internet discovered that the U.S.A’s new leading lady is a former food blogger. She’s even reported on her state’s crown foodie jewel, the cronut. Miss America wasn’t the only who got to bask in the limelight; boxing world champion Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. won his rematch with contender Marcos Maidana by an unanimous decision. The victory brings his undefeated tally to 47… somehow the title world champion is starting to sound like an understatement.

Love on the set!
For Orange is the New Black screenwriter Lauren Morelli, life imitated art a bit more than she probably expected. While writing the hit program, Morelli decided to divorce her husband and start a relationship with Samira Wiley, an actress from the show. Meanwhile, searchers learned that Mindy Kaling considers former The Office castmate and on-screen boyfriend B.J. Novak “the love that got away.” But while not all on-set relationships last, some couples not only make it work but also take their relationship to the next level. That’s the route taken by Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, who met while making the movie The Place Beyond the Pines. The power couple welcomed baby girl Gosling earlier this week.

Tip of the week
The NFL season’s just getting started so it’s time to hunker down and plan your football viewing schedule. Just say, “OK Google, show me the NFL schedule” to coordinate your life for the next four months. We’ll see you back in the spring.

Posted:
Knowledge is a game changer. I’ve long been inspired by the Internet and how it opens the doors to opportunity. It provides access to knowledge, no matter who you are or where you are. For instance, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Nobel Laureate at a world-class research center or a young student at a rural school in Indonesia, with Google Search, you have the same information at your fingertips as anyone else.

If we look at how people are getting online and accessing information today, increasingly it’s through a smartphone. While 1.75 billion people around the world already have a smartphone, the vast majority of the world’s population—over five billion more—do not. That means most people are only able to make simple voice calls, rather than connect with family through a live video chat, use mapping apps to find the closest hospital, or simply search the web. We want to bring these experiences to more people.

That’s where Android One comes in. At I/O, we first talked about this initiative to make high-quality smartphones accessible to as many people as possible. And today we’re introducing the first family of Android One phones in India.
Addressing key barriers—hardware, software and connectivity
There are three big reasons why it’s hard for people in countries such as India, Indonesia or the Philippines to get their hands on a high-quality smartphone. First, is the hardware itself. Even entry-level smartphones still remain out of reach for many (bear in mind that in some of these countries the average monthly income is around $250). Second, many people in these markets do not have access to the latest Android software and popular applications. Finally, even where 3G and 4G networks are available, not enough people have phones that can support data and the plans can be expensive.

Android One aims to help tackle these challenges. By working closely with phone and silicon chip makers to share reference designs and select components, we’re making it easier for our partners to build phones that are not just great to use, but also affordable. They have lots of processing power, so you can get information quickly. They have high-quality front- and rear-facing cameras. And for all those pictures, along with your apps and videos, Android One phones will have expandable storage. We also added features that people in India will find particularly useful, like dual SIM cards, a replaceable battery and built-in FM radio.
To help ensure a consistent experience, Android One devices will receive the latest versions of Android directly from Google. So you’ll get all the latest features, up-to-date security patches, and peace of mind knowing your stuff is always backed up. It also means Android One devices will be some of the first to be updated to the Android L release later this year. For our hardware partners, they’ll be able to create customized experiences and differentiate their devices without having to change the core software.

In an effort to reduce data costs, if you have an Airtel SIM card, you’ll get these software updates for free for the first six months. As part of this same Airtel offer, you’ll also be able to download up to 200MB per month worth of your favorite apps (that’s about 50 apps overall) from Google Play—all without counting toward your mobile data usage.

More to come
This is just the beginning of the Android One journey. The first phones, from our hardware partners Micromax, Karbonn, Spice and chipmaker MediaTek, are available starting today in India from leading retailers starting at Rs 6,399. We’re also excited to welcome more partners to the program, including phone manufacturers Acer, Alcatel Onetouch, ASUS, HTC, Intex, Lava, Lenovo, Panasonic, Xolo, and chipmaker Qualcomm. We expect to see even more high-quality, affordable devices with different screen sizes, colors, hardware configurations and customized software experiences. Finally, we plan to expand the Android One program to Indonesia, the Philippines and South Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) by the end of the year, with more countries to follow in 2015.

Access for access’s sake is not enough. With Android One, we not only want to help people get online, we want to make sure that when they get there, they can tap into the wealth of information and knowledge the web holds for everyone.

Posted:
New phones, new games, new looks. Let’s take a peek at all the happenings this week in search:

All you can eat? 
The Olive Garden learned this week that it’s risky to get between people and their food. The restaurant chain’s new “Never Ending Pasta Pass” offered up to 1,000 people seven weeks of unlimited pasta, salad and those sneaky-good breadsticks for just $100. The rush of pasta lovers eager for a deal crashed the Olive Garden website before the pass was even for sale—and thousands more turned to search to learn more about the debacle.

The latest edition
It was a big week for our neighbors from Cupertino. Apple’s latest announcement this week flooded the search trends, with more than 10 million searches for the new iPhone 6, along with its release date and price. People were also curious about the new Apple Watch, the band U2—whose latest album Apple gave away for free to all iTunes users—and how the announcement was affecting AAPL stock.

And baby makes four for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, who announced this week that they’re expecting a little brother or sister for one-year-old Prince George. People turned to the web to learn more about the news. Start your office naming pools now! 

Football frenzy 
A full 15 out of 20 top searches on Sunday were related to the first Sunday of football season, with the Cowboys, Steelers and Broncos topping the pack—on search, at least. But unfortunately, it was events off the field that had many people turning to the web this week. Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely from the league on Monday, after TMZ released a video that appears to show him assaulting his then-fiancee in an elevator. More than 2 million searches for Rice followed—the highest spike ever. People were also looking for more information on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in an effort to understand whether the league’s leadership had knowledge of the incident earlier in the year.


POTUS and ISIS
Just a day earlier, President Obama announced that the U.S. military would expand its air strikes in Iraq and now Syria, against the extremist group ISIS. Searches for ISIL, the term the President used for the group, climbed the day of his speech as people looked for more information on the news. 

Transformations 
The latest season of “The Biggest Loser” premiered yesterday with new trainers and a new concept—“Glory Days,” in which former athletes compete to regain their former fitness—leading people to the web to learn more. And “The Sixth Sense” star Haley Joel Osment was in the news this week—but we won’t blame you if you missed it, since he was nearly unrecognizable from his former self. Osment is filming a new Kevin Smith movie “Yoga Hosers,” in which he plays Canadian fascist journalist Adrien Arcand.

Tip of the week 
September is National Emergency Preparedness Month. With the Google Search App, you can get warnings from Google Public Alerts when bad weather is on its way. Take a few minutes to get prepared by learning more about Alerts, which are available on Google Now, Search and Maps.

Posted:
Imagine trying to keep track of another person’s real-time edits in a document—using only your ears. Or trying to create a table from spreadsheet data—without being able to clearly see the cells. Whether you’re backing up a file in Drive or crunching some numbers in Sheets, it should be easy to bring your ideas to life using Google’s tools. But if you’re blind or have low vision, you may need to rely on assistive technologies such as screen readers and Braille displays—and that can make working in the cloud challenging. While screen readers can parse static webpages (like this blog) relatively easily, it’s much harder for them to know what to say in interactive applications like Google Docs because the actions they need to describe are much more complex.

With these reasons in mind, today we’re announcing some improvements to Drive and all our editors—Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, and Forms—specifically designed with blind and low-vision users in mind.
Improved screen reader support in Drive and Docs 
In June, we introduced a new version of Drive that’s sleeker, easier to navigate and much faster. But just as importantly, the new Drive also includes better keyboard accessibility, support for zoom and high-contrast mode and improved usability with screen readers.

Across Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings and Forms, you’ll find that it’s now much easier to use a screen reader, with nicer text-to-voice verbalization and improvements to keyboard navigation. You’ll also notice other updates, including:
  • Support for alt text on images in Docs, so you can tell a screen reader what they should say to describe an image 
  • Better support for using a keyboard to edit charts and pivot tables in Sheets 
  • Additional screen reader improvements specifically for Docs, Sheets and Slides, including support for spelling suggestions, comments and revision history 
  • The ability to quickly search the menus and perform actions in Docs, Slides and Drawings (and soon Sheets and Forms)—even if you don’t know the action’s key sequence 
Collaborating with others is easier too: in Docs, Sheets, Slides or Drawings, screen readers announce when people enter or leave the document, and you’ll now also hear when others are editing alongside you.

Refreshable Braille display support 
If you use a Braille display, you can now use it to read and enter text in Docs, Slides and Drawings. Even if you don't use a Braille display, with Braille support, your screen reader’s settings for character echoing are automatically followed. Enabling Braille also dramatically reduces the lag between when you press a key and when it’s announced by your screen reader, and improves the announcements of punctuation and whitespace. Learn how to enable Braille support in our Help Center.

Get up and going faster
The first time you use a screen reader or a Braille display, getting up to speed can be a daunting task. But it’s simpler with new step-by-step guides for Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms and Drawings.
You can also access the in-product “Help” menu at any time without interrupting your work, or use the updated shortcut help dialog to easily search through keyboard shortcuts if you don’t remember them.

Finally, we’re offering phone support for Google Drive accessibility questions. If you get stuck, visit support.google.com/drive to request a phone call and someone from our team will reach out to you.

What’s next
Referring to recent updates to Google Drive, Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said at this year’s National Convention: “The progress...during the last few months has just been positively extraordinary.” We’re pleased the community has welcomed these improvements, and will continue to work with organizations like the NFB to make even more progress.

Everyone, regardless of ability, should be able to experience all that the web has to offer. To find out more about our commitment to a fully accessible web, visit the new Google Accessibility site at www.google.com/accessibility.

Posted:
We know how important it is to keep in touch with friends and family, especially when they’re spread around the world. Hangouts already makes it easy to send a quick message, or start a group video chat. But sometimes it’s best to just call to say “I love you,” and with the new version of Hangouts you can.

Starting today you can make voice calls from Hangouts on Android, iOS and the web. It’s free to call other Hangouts users, it’s free to call numbers in the U.S. and Canada, and the international rates are really low. So keeping in touch is easier and more affordable than ever.

To get started on Android, just grab the new version of Hangouts (v2.3, rolling out over the next few days), then install the accompanying dialer to turn on voice calls. On iOS and the web, voice calls will be available the next time you open the app.

Voice calls in Hangouts: call history (left); dialer (middle); in a call (right)

Whether it’s your sister in Paris, your best friend in Boston or Jenny at 867-5309, Hangouts lets you call the people you care about at little or no cost. So download the app and dial your loved ones today!

Posted:
We recently finalized an investment that will put a 82MW solar power plant on top of an old oil and gas field in Kern County, Calif. The new deal with SunEdison will generate enough energy to power 10,000 homes.

Our investment in the Regulus solar project will give new life to a long-valued piece of land, and there's something a little poetic about creating a renewable resource on land that once creaked with oil wells. Over the years, this particular site in California has gone from 30 oil wells to five as it was exhausted of profitable fossil fuel reserves. The land sat for some time and today we’re ready to spiff things up. With the help of our $145 million equity commitment, SunEdison is draping it in high-tech, sleek panels that collect energy from the sun, while bringing 650 jobs to the Kern County area and 82MW of clean energy to the grid.
Like many states, California has a goal of increasing the amount of energy procured from renewable sources. This project helps support that quest and marks 17 renewable energy investments for Google since 2010, including five here in the Golden State.

We’re continually looking for newer, bigger and better projects that help us create a clean energy future. The more than $1.5 billion we’ve brought to these projects to date not only helps provide renewable energy to the grid and to the public, but as they perform, they allow us to invest in more renewable energy projects. This cycle makes financial sense for Google and our partners while supporting construction jobs in local communities and clean energy for the planet we share.

Posted:
Candlelight flickering on a stone wall covered in hieroglyphs. A proud queen brought low by the bite of a snake. Reeds rustling along a river, waiting to be turned into papyrus, or maybe a basket. The civilization of ancient Egypt stood for thousands of years and left behind a rich legacy of architecture, art, medicine, politics, culture and more. Today, it looms large in our imagination as the home of Cleopatra, Ptolemy, Tutankhamun, people who worshipped cats as gods and buried their embalmed dead in tombs filled with treasures and sustenance for the afterlife.

Now the Egypt of your imagination can be brought to life with new Street View imagery in Google Maps, and you can take a virtual walk among the stunning monuments and rich history of this ancient civilization.

Start where most tourists do: at the Pyramids of Giza, which rise from the vast expanse of the Sahara like man-made mountains. Just kilometers from the bustling, modern city of Cairo, the Pyramids have stood for nearly 5,000 years, a testament to the ingenuity and ambition of the ancient Egyptian people.

The Giza Necropolis is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, and is home to the last standing wonder of the ancient world: the Great Pyramid. Built as a tomb and a symbol of eternity for the Pharoah Khufu, it stands 139 meters high (the height of the world’s highest roller coaster!) and was the tallest man-made structure on Earth for 3,800 years. Look beyond it to the west, and you’ll see the pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure, built by Khufu's son and grandson.

Now turn east to the Great Sphinx, the oldest and largest known monumental sculpture in the world. With the body of a lion and the head of a human, it measures a grand 73 meters long and 20 meters high. Literally translating to “Father of Dread,” this mythical creature is believed to resemble Pharaoh Khafre, who was the ruler at the time of construction.

In addition to the Giza Necropolis, you can explore The Pyramid of Djoser, the ancient site of the world’s very first Pyramid designed by the great Egyptian Architect Imhotep in the ancient burial ground of Saqqara.

Other sites you can check out on your virtual tour include: Abu Mena, one of the oldest sites of Christianity in Egypt—the church, baptistry, basilicas and monasteries; the Hanging Church, one of the oldest Coptic Churches in the world; the Cairo Citadel, a medieval Islamic fortification and historic site; and the Citadel of Qaitbay, a 15th-century defensive fortress on the Mediterranean coast.

If wandering through the imagery of these historical sites has piqued your interest in Egyptology, head over to the Google Cultural Institute, where you can explore the treasures of ancient Egypt through a series of drawings, historic photographs and artifacts from the famed sites.

The Pyramids of Giza have survived nearly five millennia and are the planet’s oldest man-made wonder. Now their legacy—and the legacy of many other sites of ancient Egyptian culture—are preserved in a new way with panoramic and immersive Street View imagery. We hope you’ll take a moment to step back in time and explore what was once known as the Gift of the Nile.

Posted:
This week search had three weddings, one real-life funeral, another on social media (we’ll explain later) and a 20th anniversary. Sounds like a packed week to us!

Heaven is a funny place
“I want my funeral to be a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action ... I want Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents.” Those are words from the great comedian Joan Rivers, who passed away yesterday. People across the web commemorated Rivers’ almost 50-year career by reliving her best punchlines and jokes (she was pretty hard to top). Meanwhile, people worked themselves into a panic when rumors swirled that TV’s favorite Golden Girl, Betty White, had passed on as well. Thankfully, the Internet is no soothsayer and Betty is alive and kicking—despite what the trends say.

Tales from the endzone
People were eagerly searching for info about the NFL’s opening game last night between the Green Bay Packers and reigning champions the Seattle Seahawks. And if you were still frantically finalizing your roster for your fantasy football team this week, you were in good company. Searchers looked for the latest player stats to fine-tune their lineups and were doing so at higher rates than previous years. One player not on fantasy rosters but on fans’ minds was Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted by the NFL, as he was cut from the St. Louis Rams. He ended up finding a home on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, so we'll have to wait just a little bit longer for him to make history on the field.

She looks great in white (and on TV)
Search was singing “The Wedding March” this week as famous brides walked down the aisle—and up the trends charts. Angelina Jolie and her wedding dress went where no other woman (except Jennifer Aniston) had gone and tied the knot with Brad Pitt. And we’re guessing Jenny McCarthy’s got the right stuff since she and former New Kid on the Block singer Donnie Wahlberg decided to get hitched (may they hang tough for years to come). Finally, basketball star Dwayne Wade stepped away from the court and onto the altar to wed Gabrielle Union. Bethany Mota celebrated a different kind of milestone as she joined the cast of Dancing with the Stars, becoming the first YouTube star to ever be invited on the show. But not everyone had a happy ending in Hollywood. Hackers were able to break into the phones of several actresses, leaking their private photos to the world—and stirring a debate in mainstream culture about privacy and cloud security.

Oldie but a goodie
We now present to you a short interlude down memory lane. This week, the cast of the 1994 hit comedy, The Little Rascals, reunited to reshoot the movie’s iconic poster—we’re still trying to come to terms with the whole “20 year anniversary” thing. And if you grew up in the 90’s, you’re more than familiar with Zack Morris and his antics at Bayside High on the teen sitcom Saved by the Bell. But do you know what happened when the cameras were turned off? That’s what searchers were looking for when Lifetime’s new TV movie The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story aired this past Monday. The movie had a somewhat chilly reception on social media, with people tweeting their various issues with its portrayal.

Tip of the week
Summer may officially be over but that doesn’t mean the beach is closed. Just ask Google, “Where is the nearest beach?” to enjoy a little fun in the sun...because you know what they say, winter is coming!

Posted:
Earlier this year, we launched Android Wear, bringing Android to wearables. Since then, the first watches powered by Android Wear, the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live, have gone on sale, developers have already built thousands of apps enhanced for Wear, and great new watches are becoming available from more partners.

Our goal with Wear is to build technology that helps you connect with others and get stuff done. So often, technology can become something that gets in the way of everything else. But we want to build devices that you can use when you need and forget about when you don’t—technology that's built for your sake, rather than its own sake. Coming throughout the rest of this year, we're making some updates to Wear that will help you get even more out of your watch—and the rest of your life, too.

First, we're bringing offline music playback and GPS support to Android Wear. Go for a run or bike ride with your Android wearable and leave your phone at home. You’ll be able to listen to music stored on your watch via Bluetooth headphones. And if your watch includes a GPS sensor, you can track your distance and speed too.

The second update will enable downloadable watch faces, so you can customize the visual design of your watch's home screen to show the information you want to see most—like your calendar or fitness sensors. Developers will soon be working on watch faces, making them available on Google Play.

We’re also continuing to work with manufacturers to bring you even more watch options, with different shapes, styles and sensors.
  • The Moto 360, the first Android wearable with a round display, is now available for sale in the U.S.
  • The Asus Zen Watch, coming later this year, includes a bio sensor, so you can keep tabs on your fitness and relaxation levels throughout the day.
  • The LG G Watch R uses a circular display, includes a heart rate monitor, and will be available later this year.
  • Last, but not least, we’re happy to welcome Sony to the Android Wear family with the Sony SmartWatch 3. It uses a transflective display for easier readability in sunlight, includes a GPS sensor, and will be available later this year.
These watches, as well as those unveiled earlier this summer, will all get the new software updates described above as soon as they’re ready in the coming months. We're also working with our partners on even more improvements, which means your device will continue to get better, with updates provided directly to you.

Whether it's giving you directions, letting you stay in touch more easily or keeping track of your steps so you can stay fit, Wear is designed to help you out without getting in your way. With new features and many new devices to choose from, chances are there's a watch that's just right for you.