Three contest winners making their way to television

(Cross-posted from the Google TV Ads Blog)

Small businesses often think that television advertising is too expensive and cumbersome for them to use. They assume that they need a fancy, expensive commercial to use in their TV campaign. But Google TV Ads changes all of that — we make it easy and affordable for you to make a TV ad, plan a campaign and reach your customers through the power of television. We launched the TV for All contest two months ago to prove just that.

More than 200 companies submitted commercials for the opportunity to win $25,000 worth of free national advertising on cable channels such as CNBC, Hallmark and Bloomberg using Google TV Ads. Today, we're happy to announce the three winners of the TV for All contest based on votes from the YouTube community.

Amazing Gates, Owners.com and ZAGG.com received the largest number of votes among the 10 finalists. Each of these businesses will receive $25,000 in free national advertising through Google TV Ads advertising.

Check out the three winners and all entries at www.youtube.com/tvforallcontest. For more information on Google TV Ads and how it can help your small business succeed, visit our website at google.com/tvads.


Growing the next generation of computer scientists and business leaders

(Cross-posted on the Google Student Blog)

We had a busy summer here at Google interacting with students through a wide variety of scholarship, internship and networking opportunities across North America. Here's a look back at a few of our programs (you can bet we'll be hosting them again!) along with news on some upcoming initiatives.

Rising college sophomores participated in two Google programs: Google FUSE, in its inaugural year, and the Google Computer Science Summer Institute (CSSI).

For FUSE, we welcomed 50 rising college sophomores to our New York City office for a three-day retreat designed to connect students from groups that are under-represented in the field of computer science. The retreat focused on making connections between students and Googlers, encouraging students to create meaningful academic experiences and allowing them to learn more about possible career paths via hands-on activities, panel discussions and a bit of fun around the New York City area.

Another group of twenty rising sophomores spent two weeks at the Googleplex in Mountain View for the second annual Computer Science Summer Institute. This special program included an interactive and collaborative Computer Science curriculum, as well as a living-learning residential experience for student networking. Students worked in teams to create an interactive web application using Python in Google App Engine. When not in class, they heard technical talks from Google engineers, spoke with professionals from across the technology industry and academia about the many things they can do with a Computer Science degree. They also had some fun joining the Bay Area summer interns on a boat cruise and catching a baseball game after an exciting San Francisco scavenger hunt.

In addition, our engineering internship program hosted more than 450 college (undergraduate and graduate) interns in 15 locations across North America. These interns were an integral part of the engineering team and made significant contributions this summer working on exciting projects including Android, Chrome, Docs and machine translation.

We also had more than 100 students working across multiple functions, including sales and engineering in Mountain View, New York, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Boston as part of the Building Opportunities for Leadership and Development (BOLD) Program. BOLD is a 10-week internship program designed to provide exposure to the technology industry for students from groups that are historically underrepresented in technology. This summer experience includes a unique glimpse into a business or engineering career, professional development and leadership courses, as well as one-on-one mentorship designed to further support professional growth.

Of course, we realize that growing future leaders in engineering and business doesn't just start with college students. For this reason, we partner with the LEAD programs in both business and engineering to encourage outstanding high school students to pursue careers in these fields. This year, all four LEAD Summer Engineering Institute participants had the opportunity to tour a local Google office to attend technical talks and interact with Google engineers (okay, with some tasty food and video games thrown in as well).

As part of Google's ongoing commitment to recognizing student achievements and promoting leadership, we also offer a number of academic scholarships. We are currently accepting applications for the Google Lime Scholarship for Student with Disabilities in the U.S. and Canada, and the Anita Borg Scholarship in Canada, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and the United States. In case you're curious, we offer a host of scholarships for many other international regions.

If one or more of these opportunities sounds like something you'd like to participate in, you can find applications for full time opportunities and summer internship opportunities on our student job site. Visit our scholarship page for more information on our scholarship opportunities. And follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates on application deadlines and new program announcements.

Making an early connection playing People Bingo at Google FUSE.

Taking a break from bowling during Google FUSE.


Similar Images graduates from Google Labs

Today, we're happy to announce that Similar Images is graduating from Google Labs and becoming a permanent feature in Google Images. You can try it out by clicking on "Find similar images" below the most popular images in our search results. For example, if you search for jaguar, you can use the "Find similar images" link to find more pictures of the car or the animal. 

When we revamped Labs in April, we also launched Similar Images to highlight some of the innovative work our engineers have been working on. Google Labs gives us a way to get some of our new ideas in front of you early in the process, refine them based on your feedback and see what sticks. Your support has helped to make Similar Images the first major feature to graduate from Google Labs since its recent overhaul.

So, let's say you want to find images of Ancient Egypt. Google Images will provide you with a rich variety of results, including pyramids, maps, relics, drawings and other types of images. Instead of poring through hundreds of images, now you can simply click "Find similar images" to narrow down the results to the results to the type you want. (We're rolling this out gradually, so the links in the below examples may not work for you yet.)

You could narrow down your results to show you only the Great Sphinx of Giza:

Or illustrative maps of Ancient Egypt:

Or ancient Egyptian-style drawings:

While we'll continue to use Google Labs as a way to showcase and collect feedback for exciting new technologies, we also want to make it easier for you to provide direct feedback on all aspects of Google Images. That's why today we're also announcing the availability of Product Ideas for Google Images. With product ideas, you can post comments that will be seen directly by members of the Images team, as well as vote on ideas that others have submitted. We'll pay special attention to those ideas that are voted to the top of the list.

Introducing the Google Earth heroes project

Hundreds of millions of people use Google Earth every day to discover, explore and learn more about the world around them. We're especially proud that Google Earth has also been used as a tool to help people change the world. Today, to celebrate he individuals and organizations that have used Google Earth in their efforts to effect change, we announced the Google Earth heroes project.

In this first stage of the heroes project, we're highlighting the work of five groups — Project Kaisei, Save the Elephants, Borneo Orangutan Survival, Chief Almir and the Surui and Appalachian Voices — who have used Google Earth in a variety of ways to tell their stories. We'll be releasing videos showcasing other organizations' work in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

To learn more about these groups and view their videos, read our post on the Google Lat Long blog or visit http://earth.google.com/changetheworld.

Sesame Street comes to Google: Improving our education system at the Breakthrough Learning forum

If you could reinvent the American education system, what would you do? It's a question we think about a lot here at Google. This week we're exploring possibilities with Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age, a forum organized in cooperation with The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and Common Sense Media, with the support of the MacArthur Foundation. This event will bring together 200 of the nation’s thought leaders in science and technology, informal and formal education, entertainment media, research, philanthropy and policy to design a strategy for scaling up effective models of teaching and learning for children, with an emphasis on technology. The forum will showcase new research, proven and promising education innovation models to challenge decision-makers to refresh and reboot American global leadership in education.

There's plenty of evidence that shows that the current educational system in the U.S. needs improvement. Twenty-five years ago, President Reagan's National Commission on Excellence in Education produced "A Nation at Risk," a report which first highlighted that our country's system wasn't meeting the national need for a competitive workforce in the day's global economy. Since then, our education system has gone through great upheaval, from the state-level standards reforms in the 1990s to 2002's No Child Left Behind, which is similarly based on the belief that setting high standards measurable goals will improve individual outcomes in education. Though the intention of these reforms was to close the global achievement gap, they left many teachers and students feeling restricted to teaching and learning "to the test." And we're still seeing disheartening results; the U.S. is currently ranked 25th of OECD countries in math scores and 24th in science scores according to the PISA 2006 Science Competencies for Tomorrow's World report. And according to McKinsey's Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America's Schools report, if the U.S. had in recent years closed the gap between its educational achievement levels and those of higher-performing nations, our GDP in 2008 could have been $1.3 trillion to $2.3 trillion higher. That's 9 to 16 percent of GDP!

Fortunately, there are people today who are working to change these statistics. One is tonight's keynote speaker, Geoff Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone. The Harlem Children's Zone combines educational, social and medical services with the goal of reaching all of the children in Harlem. Another organization addressing the issue is the MacArthur Foundation, which has created the Digital Media and Learning Project to explore the effects of digital media on young people and its implications for the future of learning and education. And we can't forget Sesame Workshop, which this year celebrates 40 years of educating children with Muppets and media.

There's great hope for American education, as long as we can work toward innovative solutions that not only allow students distinct educational experiences tailored to their interests and abilities, but also drive toward a common goal of assessable success. Students today are technologists too, and embracing that familiarity and bringing it into the classroom will help teachers and students better engage and work together to teach and learn. Most importantly, we need to support our teachers, principals and administrators — the true agents of change who tirelessly and passionately work to connect with each and every student that passes through their classrooms. The Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age forum is one step we're taking to address some of our most pressing national education system issues.

If you're interested in joining us at the forum, we'll be broadcasting live on the web both today and tomorrow. We welcome your questions and ideas to help us shape our discussions. Go to http://www.google.com/events/digitalage/ to participate and learn more.

Energy Secretary Chu visits Googleplex

Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu joined us at the Google campus today to talk about how the U.S. can build a prosperous economy powered by clean energy.

During a fireside chat with Googlers and our CEO Eric Schmidt, Secretary Chu talked about what it will take to create a clean energy revolution. When it comes to clean tech investments, he said, the Department of Energy is trying to "hit home runs, not base hits." He noted that there are many proposed solutions to climate change out there, and we need to pursue all of them. "The scale of what we need to do is enormous," said Secretary Chu, and "putting the world on a carbon diet" and dramatically bringing down the cost of clean energy and should be top priorities. If we succeed, it will "drive a new industrial revolution." 

Secretary Chu also heard from Googlers about some of our own clean energy projects including Google PowerMeter, which gives consumers access to their energy use information, developing renewable energy that is cheaper than coal (RE<C) and making our datacenters the most energy efficient in the world. "More companies need to get on board and make this part of their business plan," said the Secretary.

While in Mountain View, Secretary Chu announced $151 million in funding for 37 breakthrough energy projects in technologies like renewable power, energy efficiency and electric cars. The funding is being made available through the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), a newly-launched organization within the Department of Energy (DOE) created to support high-risk, high-reward research into innovative energy technologies. ARPA-E is modeled on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the agency that funded research that eventually led to the creation of the Internet.

(We'll post the full video of the Secretary's talk soon — check back later to watch!)

Contextual search within Wikipedia

We are excited to announce that we've built a Custom Search Wikipedia skin that makes it easier for you to complete your research on Wikipedia. Wikipedia allows users to register and personalize their Wikipedia environment via the configuration of options and the use of styles or skins. Just log in to Wikipedia, enable the Custom Search skin and you'll have quick access to relevant Google Custom Search results from Wikipedia. With the Custom Search skin, your search results are conveniently placed inline on the page. After you've reviewed the results, you can dismiss them and return to the current article of interest without having to switch to a different tab on your browser; you can access the relevant Wikipedia articles right within the Wikipedia interface.

The Custom Search skin also features contextual search — searching across different sets of pages as you navigate Wikipedia. For Wikipedia pages with a lot of information and links, contextual search lets you limit your search to only those Wikipedia pages that are linked from the current article, focusing the results on the topic of the article. So, in addition to getting all matching Wikipedia articles, you can quickly drill down to contextually relevant results using the Linked Wikipedia Pages tab.

For example, searching for [sequence] from a Wikipedia page on DNA provides a list of relevant results about DNA sequences and DNA sequence alignment, instead of the many pages about sequences (in mathematics, poetry, music, games, etc.) that aren't relevant. Similarly, searching within the DNA page for [bonds] gives you results in chemistry and biochemistry, instead of other information about financial instruments and social sciences. This will help you perform more directed research, often with shorter queries, and get to relevant Wikipedia articles faster.

As you can see from the screenshot below, the Linked Wikipedia Pages tab helps you get quickly to the article about DNA sequence from a search for [sequence] on the DNA page.

To configure the new skin, follow the instructions on the Custom Search skin page on Wikipedia. It works with both Wikipedia's default Monobook style or the new Beta Vector style. You will need to log in to Wikipedia to customize your Wikipedia search.

For more information about the technology behind this application release, read our post on the Google Custom Search blog.

Wikipedia encourages technical innovation and tools to help you get improved access to knowledge, so please post your opinions about this contextual search experience at Wikimedia or give us feedback directly.

Last Friday was the third anniversary of the launch of Custom Search — we would like to take a moment to thank the millions of you who have implemented Custom Search on your sites. To celebrate our birthday we're releasing two new features that we hope will help you better customize your search results: Custom Search Themes and Structured Custom Search. Check out this post on the Google Custom Search blog to learn more about our third anniversary.

Liberate your Google Docs with Convert, Zip and Download

This past September, you may have heard about the launch of our Data Liberation site, a central place on the web detailing how you can easily move your data into or away from Google's cloud. Today, we're adding another product to our growing list of liberations: the "Convert, Zip and Download" feature in Google Docs, which allows you to download a bunch — or all — of your Docs simultaneously.

This new feature comes out of a collaboration between the Google Docs engineering team and Google's Data Liberation Front, a small team of engineers that aims to make it easy for you to transfer your personal data in and out of Google's services by building simple import and export functions.

"Convert, Zip and Download" now joins dozens of other liberation features across our product offerings, ranging from Blogger's full blog downloads to email export from Gmail using IMAP and POP3. The feature lets you bundle your Google Docs in a format of your choice (MS Office, Open Office, PDF, etc.) and download them as a zip file. No longer do you have to download each document individually, which can take a lot of time if you have hundreds of documents like I do! All you need to do is select the relevant Docs, click on "Export" from the "More Actions" menu and download them in one go. (Check out the Google Docs Blog for more details.)

We hope you find the new export feature useful. We strongly believe that you — not the products you use — should control your data, and be able to quickly and easily take that data out of any product without a hassle. We've already liberated more than half of our products, and are working hard to address the remaining challenges. Keep an eye out for more upcoming Data Liberations.

You can also take a deeper look into product liberation at dataliberation.org, follow us on Twitter @dataliberation or contribute suggestions for services that you think need to be liberated on our Data Liberation Moderator page.