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Last October, we kicked off our annual Doodle 4 Google art competition, asking students to create a doodle to tell the world “What makes me…me.” This time around, we added a little twist: for the first time in eight years of Doodle 4 Google, there were no restrictions on the medium or materials kids could use to create a doodle. Kids took us up on the challenge. A quarter of all finalists used some non-traditional media—from clay and wood to origami, photographs and sheets of music—in their submission.

Today, Googlers are hosting surprise assemblies at schools from Waterville, Maine to Waipahu, Hawaii to celebrate the winners of each state and thank the teachers and parents who have encouraged them along the way. And for the first time ever, we’re announcing winners for Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico. See all 53 State and Territory Winners on our website.

Now, our finalists need your votes for a shot at having their doodle make it onto the Google homepage. Starting today through Feb 22, head to the Doodle 4 Google site to vote for your favorite artwork for each grade group. On March 21, we’ll announce the winner and four runners-up—and you’ll see the winning doodle on google.com.

Check out this year’s talented set of finalists and vote for your favorite!


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Growing up, my parents were daily reminders of the sacrifices made by earlier generations of Black Americans to give people like me the opportunities they were denied. To this day, their stories propel me to continue the fight for justice. I am far from alone—reflecting on a shared history inspires millions around the world to work toward equality. But without some record, those stories and the passion they ignite could get lost.

Artworks, artifacts and archives have the power not only to give a story life, but to encourage action and incite change. That’s why the Google Cultural Institute is excited to add records from institutions like the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Studio Museum and Amistad Research Center and many more—bringing together important archives from Black history for anyone to access not only during Black History Month, but throughout the year.

From the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra to the historical records of Frederick Douglass and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this collection includes 26 new institutions (50 overall) contributing 5,000+ items and more than 80 curated exhibits. It includes new Street View imagery and three Google Expeditions, including an exploration of the resurgence of Jazz in New Orleans with Irvin Mayfield and Soledad O’Brien.

In The Baltimore Museum of Art’s exhibition “Questioning the Canon,” you can see Mickalene Thomas’s Le déjeuner sur l'herbe: Les Trois Femmes Noires and compare it side-by-side with the Manet original to see the ways Thomas has subverted the subject-matter of this canonical white European work.

You can trace along the paths of history by reading Frederick Douglass’ letter to his former master, and read the original manuscripts of Dr. King’s ”I Have a Dream” and “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speeches. Absorb Dr. King’s personal letter to wife Coretta Scott King at the beginning of his four-month prison term for non-violent protest, then cut to photographs documenting his momentous first handshake at the White House with President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Collecting these works into one place provides unprecedented access to a vital part of history that is too often forgotten. By comparing works of art and texts of speeches to find commonalities and distinctions, we can also build on the past to inspire ourselves and others. And while today is the first day of Black History Month, the work of remembering our history is necessary year round—which is why these records will be there on the Cultural Institute for generations to come.

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The game of Go originated in China more than 2,500 years ago. Confucius 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 checkers in 1994. In 1997 Deep Blue famously beat Garry Kasparov at chess. It’s not limited to board games either—IBM's Watson [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 search tree 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 with 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 44 percent). 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 reinforcement learning. 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 Nature today.

What’s next? In March, AlphaGo will face its ultimate challenge: a five-game challenge match in Seoul against the legendary Lee Sedol—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 “expert” system 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!

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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 faraway places and visit imagined worlds. Since then everyone from droid lovers and Sunday edition subscribers, to big kids and grandmas 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+ Cardboard apps on Google Play, one of your favorites got you screaming “aaaaaaahwsome,” while another “gave you goosebumps.”

4. You teleported to places far and wide, right from the comfort of YouTube.

5. Since we launched Cardboard Camera 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 White House, the Republic of Congo, and 150 other places around the globe with Expeditions.

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.

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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 Google Trends that offer interesting insights about the candidates, issues, and debate topics—anything from questions asked about key issues to trending terms and rankings 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—Nabela Noor, Mark Watson, and Dulce Candy—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 2008 election, and it can lead to personal and powerful 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!

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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 shared 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 NetHope 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 this website. 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.

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How we fought bad ads in 2015

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 policies 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:

Counterfeiters
We suspended more than 10,000 sites and 18,000 accounts for attempting to sell counterfeit goods (like imitation designer watches).

Pharmaceuticals
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.

Phishing
In 2015, we stepped up our efforts to fight phishing sites, blocking nearly 7,000 sites as a result.

Unwanted software
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 unwanted software, 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 you won’t see a Google ad from that site again. 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.

Ads Settings
In 2015, we rolled out a new design for our Ads Settings 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.

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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 Kilian Jornet—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 Ueli Steck, 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 Catherine Destivelle 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.

Renan Ozturk, acclaimed cinematographer and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, alpine photographer Jonathan Griffith, and Sender Films joined Google on Mont Blanc as part of the team.

If reaching the top is what you care about, elite guide Korra Pesce joined the troupe by carrying the Street View Trekker up and down the Goûter Route 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 learn more 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.

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The Official Google Blog

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 Kilian Jornet—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 Ueli Steck, 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 Catherine Destivelle 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.

Renan Ozturk, acclaimed cinematographer and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, alpine photographer Jonathan Griffith, and Sender Films joined Google on Mont Blanc as part of the team.

If reaching the top is what you care about, elite guide Korra Pesce joined the troupe by carrying the Street View Trekker up and down the Goûter Route 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 learn more 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.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-i70rtEuFhaA/VqAgIN7MI2I/AAAAAAAAEtw/PXgYz379QtA/s1600/Ueli%2BIce%2BClimbing_25MB.gif

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 Hiroshige. 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.

From “gigapixel” images to 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 and manga drawings in Japan—we hope you’ll agree.

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