Friday, March 27, 2015

New Google Now: More of the information you need, at just the right time.

When computers do the hard work, you can get on with the things that matter in life. Google Now helps you do just that, giving you the information you need, before you even have to ask. Like updating you with flight times, pulling up your boarding pass when you arrive at the airport, or showing you the weather at your next travel destination. Today, we’re making Google Now even more useful by integrating new partners and making all your information even easier to access.

Going to the movies? Movie cards now include the latest ratings from Rotten Tomatoes, so you can pick the right movie. Purchase your tickets through Fandango, and Google Now will remind you when you need to leave for the theater, and pull up your tickets once you arrive.

In the market for a new home? Google Now can provide you with nearby real estate listings from Zillow. Plus, when you are checking out that remodeled kitchen at the open house, Now will automatically pull up more information about the listing.

Of course, all of this information is most helpful when it’s front and center and ready when you are. The new Google Now widget brings all your important Now cards to your home or lock screen, so you don’t even have to open the app.

When Google Now first launched last summer, we promised it was just the beginning, and it would continue to get better at delivering you more of the information you need, before you even ask. This is the fourth update since launch, and we’re just getting started!

To try out these new cards, get the latest version of the Google Search app for Android, available on Google Play for devices running Android 4.1 and above.

Posted by Baris Gultekin, Product Management Director

A smoother Drive app for Android

(cross-posted to the Google Drive Blog)

The process of creating and accessing your stuff shouldn’t be, well...a process. Today, the Drive app for Android is getting several improvements to make creating and accessing your stuff on-the-go even easier.
To help you find the content you care about, Drive files will now be displayed in a clean, simple card-style. You can swipe between files to see large previews that let you quickly review and discover the information you’re looking for. And if you want to keep some Drive files on your Android device, you’ll now be able to “download a copy” from the actions menu inside settings.

The updated Drive for Android app also gives you to a way to keep track of important paper documents like receipts, letters, and billing statements. Simply click “Scan” from the Add New menu, snap a photo of your document, and Drive will turn the document into a PDF that’s stored for safekeeping. And because Drive can recognize text in scanned documents using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, a simple search will retrieve the scanned document later. No more frantic scrambling through drawers looking for a receipt or digging through your pockets to find that business card -- just scan, upload and search in Drive.

The editing experience in Google Sheets has also gotten some improvements: now you can adjust font types and sizes for a spreadsheet and tweak the cell text colors and cell alignment right from the app. Plus, the Drive app comes with Cloud Print support so you can print anything from Drive with a Cloud Ready printer -- perfect if you need to, say, print that extra resume right before a job interview.

Get the Google Drive app today on Google Play and circle us on Google+ for continued updates. 

Posted by Denis Teplyashin, Software Engineer

The State of Broadband Internet Access in Kansas City

Google is all about building data-driven products. When users of Google Navigation wanted the ability to circumnavigate heavy traffic, we began to use real-time traffic data to suggest alternate routes. When Google engineers began to tackle the problem of automatic translation online, they relied on translation data from hundreds of thousands of websites in many languages.
Similarly, as we’re in the process of bringing Google Fiber to Kansas City, KS and Kansas City, MO, we need to first understand how many people here already have access to broadband, and more importantly, how many don’t. In order to get a grasp on the situation we partnered with a group that’s full of community experts—the Mayor’s Bistate Innovation Team (MBIT)—to commission a study on broadband adoption and digital literacy in Kansas City. Today, we’re gathering with MBIT at the Kansas City, MO Central Library to release and discuss the data that we’ve collected.
The good news is that a lot Kansas Citians seem to recognize the value of the web. Those surveyed said that the Internet can be helpful when it comes to job hunting, getting health information, and learning new things.

Unfortunately, our study also illustrates that there is a real digital divide in both Kansas Cities. We found that 17% of Kansas Citians are not going online at all, and 8% are only using dial-up or slow speed wireless connections.
These stats lead to a follow-up question: why are one-quarter of Kansas Citians not connected to the web at home? We found that one of the primary reasons is cost. 28% of those who don’t use said that they don’t go online because they don’t have a computer, or because Internet access is too expensive. Meanwhile, 41% of respondents said they don’t go online because they just don’t think it’s relevant to their lives.
This is a big deal. Using the Internet isn’t just about checking email and social networking. Access to broadband—and knowing how to use it—has become essential when it comes to jobs, education, business and much more. The web provides a wealth of information and services for Internet users, and people who aren’t online are, simply put, at a huge disadvantage. A job search, for example, is much harder today without the ability to review job listings and apply online. Similarly, computer skills and digital literacy have become perquisites for the majority of job opportunities.
From a policy standpoint, we can try and address these issues by encouraging policies that will make computers and Internet access more affordable, and promote digital literacy initiatives.
But a lot of outreach and education needs to take place on a community level. And that’s why this morning we’ve joined representatives from amazing local nonprofits, schools, libraries, city governments and other community experts in a discussion about how to take action and get Kansas Citians online using broadband Internet access. We’ll post the video of our discussion here as soon as it’s ready. In the meantime, you can peruse or download the full results of our study.
The Google Fiber project is about making the web better and faster—but it’s also about making the Internet more accessible for people throughout Kansas City. Digital inclusion here is a priority for Google, and it’s clear that it’s also a priority for community nonprofits and the local governments.
Update: We're also sharing our research on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood level. You can read or download the findings if you're interested!

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