Insights from Googlers into our products, technology, and the Google culture
AlphaGo: using machine learning to master the ancient game of Go
January 27, 2016
The game of
originated in China more than 2,500 years ago.
wrote about the game, and it is considered one of the
four essential arts
required of any true Chinese scholar.
Played by more than 40 million people worldwide
, the rules of the game are simple: Players take turns to place black or white stones on a board, trying to capture the opponent's stones or surround empty space to make points of territory. The game is played primarily through intuition and feel, and because of its beauty, subtlety and intellectual depth it has captured the human imagination for centuries.
But as simple as the rules are, Go is a game of profound complexity. There are 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible positions—that’s more than the number of atoms in the universe, and more than a googol times larger than chess.
This complexity is what makes Go hard for computers to play, and therefore an irresistible challenge to artificial intelligence (AI) researchers, who use games as a testing ground to invent smart, flexible algorithms that can tackle problems, sometimes in ways similar to humans. The first game mastered by a computer was
noughts and crosses
(also known as tic-tac-toe) in 1952. Then fell
in 1994. In 1997 Deep Blue famously beat Garry Kasparov at
. It’s not limited to board games either—IBM's
[PDF] bested two champions at Jeopardy in 2011, and
in 2014 our own algorithms learned to play dozens of Atari games
just from the
raw pixel inputs
. But to date, Go has thwarted AI researchers; computers still only play Go as well as amateurs.
Traditional AI methods—which construct a
over all possible positions—don’t have a chance in Go. So when we set out to crack Go, we took a different approach. We built a system, AlphaGo, that combines an
advanced tree search
deep neural networks
. These neural networks take a description of the Go board as an input and process it through 12 different network layers containing millions of neuron-like connections. One neural network, the “policy network,” selects the next move to play. The other neural network, the “value network,” predicts the winner of the game.
We trained the neural networks on 30 million moves from games played by human experts, until it could predict the human move 57 percent of the time (the previous record before AlphaGo was
). But our goal is to beat the best human players, not just mimic them. To do this, AlphaGo learned to discover new strategies for itself, by playing thousands of games between its neural networks, and adjusting the connections using a trial-and-error process known as
. Of course, all of this requires a huge amount of computing power, so we made extensive use of
Google Cloud Platform
After all that training it was time to put AlphaGo to the test. First, we held a tournament between AlphaGo and the other top programs at the forefront of computer Go. AlphaGo won all but one of its 500 games against these programs. So the next step was to invite the reigning three-time European Go champion Fan Hui—an elite professional player who has devoted his life to Go since the age of 12—to our London office for a challenge match. In a closed-doors match last October, AlphaGo won by 5 games to 0. It was the first time a computer program has ever beaten a professional Go player. You can find out more in our paper, which was published in
What’s next? In March, AlphaGo will face its ultimate challenge: a five-game challenge match in Seoul against the legendary
—the top Go player in the world over the past decade.
We are thrilled to have mastered Go and thus achieved one of the
grand challenges of AI
. However, the most significant aspect of all this for us is that AlphaGo isn’t just an
built with hand-crafted rules; instead it uses general machine learning techniques to figure out for itself how to win at Go. While games are the perfect platform for developing and testing AI algorithms quickly and efficiently, ultimately we want to apply these techniques to important real-world problems. Because the methods we’ve used are general-purpose, our hope is that one day they could be extended to help us address some of society’s toughest and most pressing problems, from climate modelling to complex disease analysis. We’re excited to see what we can use this technology to tackle next!
Posted by Demis Hassabis, Google DeepMind
(Un)folding a virtual journey with Google Cardboard
January 27, 2016
A year and a half ago we introduced Google Cardboard, a simple cardboard viewer that anyone can use to experience mobile virtual reality (VR). With just Cardboard and the smartphone in your pocket, you can travel to
. Since then everyone from
Sunday edition subscribers
have been able to enjoy VR—often for the very first time. Here's a look at where we are, 19 months in:
1. 5 million Cardboard fans have joined the fold.
2. In just the past two months (October-December), you launched into 10 million more immersive app experiences:
3. Out of 1,000+
on Google Play,
one of your favorites
got you screaming “aaaaaaahwsome,” while
“gave you goosebumps.”
4. You teleported to places far and wide, right from the
comfort of YouTube
5. Since we launched
in December, you’ve captured more than 750,000 VR photos, letting you relive your favorite moments anytime, from anywhere.
6. Students around the world have taken VR field trips to the
Republic of Congo
, and 150 other places around the globe with
While you've been traveling the world and beyond with Cardboard, we've been on a journey, too. Keep your eyes peeled for more projects that bring creative, entertaining and educational experiences to mobile VR.
Posted by Clay Bavor, VP Virtual Reality
New ways to stay informed about presidential politics
January 26, 2016
In just two days, Americans will tune in for the final Republican debate before the 2016 primary season officially kicks off in Iowa, and we’re
teaming up with Fox News Channel
to make sure every citizen can get the most out of it. To help people get informed before heading to the polls, we’re integrating three new components into the debate: a way to hear directly from candidates on Google; real-time Google Trends data; and questions from some of YouTube’s most prominent voices.
Hear from candidates directly, right on Google
Political search interest spikes 440 percent on average during live televised debates as people turn to the web to learn more about the candidates and their platforms. Now people will have a new way to hear directly from candidates themselves, in real-time—right in Google Search results. This experimental feature helps voters make more informed choices, and levels the playing field for candidates to share ideas and positions on issues they may not have had a chance to address during the debate. By publishing long-form text, photos and videos throughout the debate, campaigns can now give extended responses, answer questions they didn’t get a chance to on stage, and rebut their opponents. As soon as the first debate begins at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, search “Fox News debate” to find campaign responses.
Dig into issues with Google Trends
Throughout the debate, we’ll also spotlight key insights from
that offer interesting insights about the candidates, issues, and debate topics—anything from
questions asked about key issues
like the below minute-by-minute view of which candidate was searched most during the last debate.
You’ll also be able to answer polling questions about the issues that matter to you directly on Google Search when you search “Fox News debate.” Fox News will cover responses to these questions on air after the debate.
Watch YouTube creators engage with the candidates
Finally, three prominent YouTube creators—
—will join the moderators in the debate to ask the candidates a question on an issue that matters to them and their communities. Bringing new voices from YouTube to political debates is something we’ve been doing since the
, and it can lead to
interactions between candidates and voters.
The debate begins at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, with the prime time debate starting at 9 p.m. ET. So tune in to Fox News Channel to learn more about your presidential candidates on Google!
Posted by Danielle Bowers, Google News Lab
Google News Lab
Helping refugees access education and information
January 25, 2016
Ahmed is an economics student from Aleppo in Syria. Last year he was forced to leave his hometown because of the war that has forced millions of his compatriots out of their country. He left his family and his studies—everything—behind to find a better future in Europe. Now safe in Berlin, his dream is to continue his studies and eventually become a teacher at a university in Germany.
As they make it through a dangerous journey, the first thing refugees need is to find shelter, food and access to care. But soon enough, they have to learn the local language, acquire skills to work in a new country, and figure out a way to continue their studies—all in an effort to reclaim and reconnect with the lives they had before.
Last fall, we
how we’re supporting organizations on the frontline of providing essential humanitarian relief support. But we also wanted to do something to help with refugees’ long-term challenges, such as the need for access to information and education. So today, we’re making a $5.3 million Google.org grant to support the launch of Project Reconnect, a program by
to equip nonprofits working with refugees in Germany with Chromebooks, in order to facilitate easier access to education for refugees like Ahmed.
Chromebooks have proven to be a good fit for education purposes. They can be easily set up to run education or language learning apps. They’re automatically kept up to date with the latest features, apps and virus protection. And they can be configured and managed by a central administrator (in this case the nonprofits) to offer relevant programs, content and materials depending on the situation. For example, they can run an educational game for children, a language course for younger adults or even feature information about the asylum application process on a pre-installed homepage.
Nonprofits can apply today on
. Many organizations and their staff are doing incredible work in very difficult circumstances to help with this crisis. We hope that by supporting these nonprofits, we can help people like Ahmed on the next step of their journey.
Posted by Jacquelline Fuller, Director of Google.org
How we fought bad ads in 2015
January 21, 2016
When ads are good, they connect you to products or services you’re interested in and make it easier to get stuff you want. They also keep a lot of what you love about the web—like news sites or mobile apps—free.
But some ads are just plain bad—like ads that carry malware, cover up content you’re trying to see, or promote fake goods. Bad ads can ruin your entire online experience, a problem we take very seriously. That’s why we have a strict set of
for the kinds of ads businesses can run with Google—and why we’ve invested in sophisticated technology and a global team of 1,000+ people dedicated to fighting bad ads. Last year alone we disabled more than 780 million ads for violating our policies—a number that's increased over the years thanks to new protections we've put in place. If you spent one second looking at each of these ads, it’d take you nearly 25 years to see them all!
Here are some of the top areas we focused on in our fight against bad ads in 2015:
Busting bad ads
Some bad ads, like those for products that falsely claim to help with weight loss, mislead people. Others help fraudsters carry out scams, like those that lead to “phishing” sites that trick people into handing over personal information. Through a combination of computer algorithms and people at Google reviewing ads, we’re able to block the vast majority of these bad ads before they ever get shown. Here are some types of bad ads we busted in 2015:
We suspended more than 10,000 sites and 18,000 accounts for attempting to sell counterfeit goods (like imitation designer watches).
We blocked more than 12.5 million ads that violated our healthcare and medicines policy, such as ads for pharmaceuticals that weren’t approved for use or that made misleading claims to be as effective as prescription drugs.
Weight loss scams
Weight loss scams, like ads for supplements promising impossible-to-achieve weight loss without diet or exercise, were one of the top user complaints in 2015. We responded by suspending more than 30,000 sites for misleading claims.
In 2015, we stepped up our efforts to fight
, blocking nearly 7,000 sites as a result.
Unwanted software can slow your devices down or unexpectedly change your homepage and keep you from changing it back. With powerful new protections, we disabled more than 10,000 sites offering
, and reduced unwanted downloads via Google ads by more than 99 percent.
Trick to click
We got even tougher on ads that mislead or trick people into interacting with them—like ads designed to look like system warnings from your computer. In 2015 alone we rejected more than 17 million.
Creating a better experience
Sometimes even ads that offer helpful and relevant information behave in ways that can be really annoying—covering up what you’re trying to see or sending you to an advertiser’s site when you didn’t intend to go there. In 2015, we disabled or banned the worst offenders.
Accidental mobile clicks
We’ve all been there. You’re swiping through a slideshow of the best moments from the Presidential debate when an ad redirects you even though you didn’t mean to click on it. We’re working to end that. We've developed technology to determine when clicks on mobile ads are accidental. Instead of sending you off to an advertiser page you didn't mean to visit, we let you continue enjoying your slideshow (and the advertiser doesn't get charged).
Bad sites and apps
In 2015, we stopped showing ads on more than 25,000 mobile apps because the developers didn’t follow our policies. More than two-thirds of these violations were for practices like mobile ads placed very close to buttons, causing someone to accidentally click the ad. There are also some sites and apps that we choose not to work with because they don’t follow our policies. We also reject applications from sites and mobile apps that want to show Google ads but don't follow our policies. In 2015 alone, we rejected more than 1.4 million applications.
Putting you in control
We also give you tools to control the type of ads you see. You can always
let us know
when you believe an ad might be violating our policies.
Mute This Ad
Maybe you’ve just seen way too many car ads recently. “
Mute This Ad
” lets you click an “X” at the top on many of the ads we show and Google will stop showing you that ad and others like it from that advertiser. You can also tell us why. The 4+ billion pieces of feedback we received in 2015 are helping us show better ads and shape our policies.
In 2015, we rolled out a new design for our
where you can manage your ads experience. You can update your interests to make the ads you see more relevant, or block specific advertisers all together.
Looking ahead to 2016
We’re always updating our technology and our policies based on your feedback—and working to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters. In 2016, we’re planning updates like further restricting what can be advertised as effective for weight loss, and adding new protections against malware and bots. We want to make sure all the ads you see are helpful and welcome and we’ll keep fighting to make that a reality.
Posted by Sridhar Ramaswamy, SVP, Ads & Commerce
Senior Vice President
Ads & Commerce
Reach new heights with Street View of Mont Blanc in Google Maps
January 21, 2016
Declared the “monarch of mountains” by Lord Byron, the
Mont Blanc massif
is shrouded in mystery, rolling clouds and imposing snowfields. One of Europe’s highest peaks, the wild terrain of the famed mountain range is reserved for ardent mountaineers and intrepid explorers. Starting today in Google Maps, you can get an up-close, 360-degree look at the breathtaking beauty of Mont Blanc. Following last year’s first-ever vertical imagery collection of El Capitan in California’s
Yosemite National Park
, we partnered with world-renowned alpine photographers, skiers, mountaineers, climbers, and runners to collect Street View of Western Europe’s highest peak.
By working with legendary adventurers, the Street View team was able to capture the spirit of the massif in a way few witness firsthand. Run on the summit with
—he holds the speed record for ascending and descending Mont Blanc in just 4 hours 57 minutes! Ice climb up a serac with record-setting alpine climber
, or go knee deep in powder alongside 14-time ski mountaineering champion
Laetitia Roux and famed guide Patrick Gabarrou
Ueli Steck ice climbing on Mont Blanc
You can also join French climbing legend
on the imposing yet beautiful
Aiguille du Midi
, the 3842-meter peak near the Mont Blanc. Or, crouch below innovative filmmaker and free skier
Candide Thovex as he soars through the air
or has fun as only he can—by
taking his skis from the snow to the grass
Catherine Destivelle ascending near the Aiguille du Midi
, acclaimed cinematographer and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, alpine photographer
joined Google on Mont Blanc as part of the team.
If reaching the top is what you care about, elite guide
joined the troupe by carrying the Street View Trekker up and down the
of Mont Blanc. Click through the Street View to get his first-person perspective of each step to the summit.
Climb the entire Goûter Route of the Mont Blanc massif
Unfortunately, Mont Blanc’s glaciers are receding due to climate change. You can
about how the rising temperatures are directly affecting the mountain from legendary guide Patrick Gabarrou, who describes the the glacial melt on the
Mer de Glace
. So this Street View imagery also serves as a digital record of Mont Blanc as it appears today, so future outdoor enthusiasts and scientists can look back at this time capsule to see how the mountain has changed.
Kilian Jornet on the summit of Mont Blanc
Whether you choose to run up the Mont Blanc with Kilian Jornet or ski down with Laetitia Roux, we hope you enjoy reaching new heights in Europe’s
beautiful and endangered mountain range
Posted by Sandy Russell, Project Lead, Mont Blanc Street View
Mont Blanc Street View
maps and earth
From self-portraits to street art: 1,000 museums at your fingertips
January 21, 2016
The history of art is global. Look at Van Gogh—a Dutchman who spent much of his life in France, and was inspired not only by his contemporaries but also by Japanese artists like
. But until recently, the act of enjoying art and culture was limited by geography. Unless you could visit a museum in person, it would be hard for you to appreciate a work, brushstroke by brushstroke. And to fully understand the legacy of someone like Van Gogh, you would have to go from Amsterdam to Chicago to New York to Tokyo to discover and marvel at all of his influences, works and successors.
Left: Van Gogh’s self-portrait (Chicago), right: a street art re-interpretation (Amsterdam)
But with the
Google Cultural Institute
, it’s all just a few clicks away. Five years ago,
the first 17 museums
brought online a few hundred artworks so that anyone in the world could explore paintings, records and artifacts no matter where they were. Today, on our fifth birthday, the Google Cultural Institute has grown to include the collections of more than 1,000 museums and cultural institutions, with over 60 new ones added just today.
Starting today, you can
descend through the famous rotunda of the Guggenheim museum
in New York—a piece of art in itself—thanks to special aerial Street View imagery, or stroll the grand halls of the world’s heaviest building, the
Palace of Parliament in Romania
. View Monet’s famous water lilies
in super-high “gigapixel” resolution
and zoom in to see his layered brushstrokes—then visit
Monsieur Monet’s real-life garden
to see his inspiration.
Street View inside museums
, today’s museums, galleries and theatres are turning to technology to help reach new audiences and inspire them with art and culture. And the possibilities keep expanding with the addition of newer technologies like virtual reality. Just recently we worked with the Dulwich Picture Gallery—England’s oldest public art gallery—to take the young patients of King’s College Hospital in London on a virtual field trip to the museum using Google Cardboard.
Young patients at King’s College Hospital, London, were the first to experience the
Dulwich Picture Gallery
in virtual reality
Virtual visits will never replace the real thing. But technology can help open up art and culture to everyone, and we think that’s a powerful thing. As you browse the Google Cultural Institute’s 6 million objects exploring humanity’s diverse heritage across 70 countries—from this
prehistoric equivalent of the Swiss Army knife
in the Netherlands, to the
Taj Mahal in India
manga drawings in Japan
—we hope you’ll agree.
Posted by Amit Sood, director of the Google Cultural Institute
Google Cultural Institute
YouTube creators interview President Obama following his final State of the Union
January 11, 2016
"We're going to have 21st century fireside chats where I'll speak directly to the American people in a way that I think will enhance democracy and strengthen our government."
Senator Barack Obama
, November 15, 2007
Tomorrow evening, President Obama will deliver his final State of the Union address to Congress, which will broadcast
live on YouTube
. Then, as he has every year after the speech, he’ll turn to YouTube and Google to take questions from Americans about the issues that matter to them.
This Friday, January 15,
—three popular YouTube creators—will travel to Washington, D.C. to host a live YouTube Interview with President Obama. They’ll join the President in the East Room of the White House, asking a selection of questions that are top of mind for them and their fans. You can watch the whole thing on the
White House YouTube channel
—and if you have a question for the President, suggest it by using the hashtag #YouTubeAsksObama on social media.
The interview will stream live on the
White House YouTube channel
on Friday, January 15 at 2:15 p.m. EST. And don’t forget to tune in on January 12 at 9 p.m. EST to watch the
State of the Union address live
, as well as the
, live on YouTube.
Throughout his time in office, President Obama has used technology to open up the doors (
all 412 of them
) to the White House—from posting behind-the-scenes
of life in the West Wing to uploading a
on the most pressing topics facing the nation. We’re excited to have played a role in this process with our seven YouTube Interviews, tackling issues
. We look forward to helping future presidents connect with Americans in compelling ways.
Posted by Ramya Raghavan, Google Politics
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