Lowering barriers to technology adoption: three tips from City Schools of Decatur

Editor’s note: Schools are working with Google for Education Premier Partners to throw open their doors for the ExploreEDU event series, which invites neighboring educators to learn first-hand from their own experiences using Google tools. To see if there’s an event near you, visit the ExploreEDU site. Today’s guest author is Eston Melton, Director of Technology from City Schools of Decatur in Decatur, GA. The district hosted an event on February 22 at Google’s Atlanta office with their partner Promevo.

At City Schools of Decatur, we believe that technology should feel like an instinctive part of teaching and learning. Since adopting G Suite for Education in 2015 and Chromebooks in 2016, we’ve focused on making it as easy as possible for teachers and students to use new technology. Here are our main takeaways for lowering barriers to integrating technology:

1. Anticipate future needs

Four years ago, our fourth graders were issued one-to-one tablets. As these students approached eighth grade, our middle school’s leadership wanted to transition them to a device that would be easier to maintain while still meeting the requirements of our students’ learning; Chromebooks were identified as the solution. But after we deployed Chromebooks, we realized that we could have expanded the device vetting process district-wide to identify good fits for lower and higher grade levels at the same time. For instance, some elementary schools were keen to add Chromebooks, but needed a different type of Chromebook to fit smaller learners. To help us better anticipate such needs in the future, we’re creating a diverse team of IT staff, teachers, students and parents to standardize how we vet services and devices for all corners of our instructional program. This team will ensure that we can support successful initiatives that others could adopt down the road—not only for devices, but also the critical training and ongoing support needed to get the most from them.

2. Create clear access policies for teachers and students

Being thoughtful about how files and other materials are shared between students, teachers and administrators is critical. In one of my previous districts, students and staff initially had separate G Suite domains, which meant teachers and students struggled to share materials with each other. We avoided this issue at City Schools of Decatur because we set up both students and staff on a single G Suite domain, and our IT department created G Suite organizational units for staff and students that made setting different levels of permissions easy. That ease of sharing also meant that it was important to train staff on being deliberate with their sharing permissions in Drive. Comfort with Drive has allowed many of our teachers to use Google Classroom to share materials and assignments.

CitySchools_Decatur_teacher.png
Students using Chromebooks for online coursework guided by their teacher in the background. Photo credit: Katie Meyer.

3. Encourage experimentation in the classroom

We encourage students and teachers to experiment with technology so they can learn what works best for their own styles and needs. G Suite for Education lets students try new presentation styles by giving them access to collaborative tools such as Sheets and Slides. Students can also reach audiences beyond their peers by sharing their work with the public on channels such as our 3ten Convergence Media’s YouTube channel or our English students’ creative writing Blogger sites.

Students aren’t the only ones who experiment—we see staff use Google tools to implement quick improvements in their work as well. For example, when it was time for students to select their courses, our staff recognized that our course selection site featuring static PDFs was not user-friendly. Using Google Sites, our staff was able to rapidly implement several cycles of feedback to create an improved site, made better with an instructional video and cleaner layout.

Over the past few years, we’ve learned that technology adoption requires a balance of careful planning and open-mindedness. We believe this mindset is key to our district’s long-term success, and to the success of our students.

Google Research and Daydream Labs: Seeing eye to eye in mixed reality

Virtual reality lets you experience amazing things—from exploring new worlds, to painting with trails of stars, to defending your fleet to save the world. But, headsets can get in the way. If you’re watching someone else use VR, it’s hard to tell what’s going on and what they’re seeing. And if you’re in VR with someone else, there aren’t easy ways to see their facial expressions without an avatar representation.

Daydream Labs and Google Research teamed up to start exploring how to solve these problems. Using a combination of machine learning, 3D computer vision, and advanced rendering techniques, we’re now able to “remove” headsets and show a person’s identity, focus and full face in mixed reality. Mixed reality is a way to convey what’s happening inside and outside a virtual place in a two dimensional format. With this new technology, we’re able to make a more complete picture of the person in VR.

Using a calibrated VR setup including a headset (like the HTC Vive), a green screen, and a video camera, combined with accurate tracking and segmentation, you can see the “real world” and the interactive virtual elements together. We used it to show you what Tilt Brush can do and took Conan O’Brien on a virtual trip to outer space from our YouTube Space in New York. Unfortunately, in mixed reality, faces are obstructed by headsets. 

Steve Teeps in Tilt Brush

Artist Steve Teeple in Tilt Brush, shown in traditional mixed reality on the left and with headset removal on the right, which reveals the face and eyes for a more engaging experience.

The first step to removing the VR headset is to construct a dynamic 3D model of the person’s face, capturing facial variations as they blink or look in different directions. This model allows us to mimic where the person is looking, even though it’s hidden under the headset.

Next, we use an HTC Vive, modified by SMI to include eye-tracking, to capture the person’s eye-gaze from inside the headset. From there, we create the illusion of the person’s face by aligning and blending the 3D face model with a camera’s video stream. A translucent “scuba mask” look helps avoid an “uncanny valley” effect.

Finally, we composite the person into the virtual world, which requires calibrating between the Vive tracking system and the external camera. We’re able to automate this and make it highly accurate so movement looks natural. The end result is a complete view of both the virtual world and the person in it, including their entire face and where they’re looking.

Google Research and Daydream Labs headset removal

Our initial work focused on mixed reality is just one potential application of this technology. Seeing beyond VR headsets could help enhance communication and social interaction in VR. Imagine being able to VR video conference and see the expressions and nonverbal cues of the people you are talking to, or seeing your friend’s reactions as you play your favorite game together.

It’s just the beginning for this technology and we’ll share more moving forward. But, if you’re game to go deeper, we’ve described the technical details on the Google Research blog. This is an ongoing collaboration between Google Research, Daydream Labs, and the YouTube team. We’re making mixed reality capabilities available in select YouTube Spaces and are exploring how to bring this technology to select creators in the future. 

Google Research and Daydream Labs: Seeing eye to eye in mixed reality

Virtual reality lets you experience amazing things—from exploring new worlds, to painting with trails of stars, to defending your fleet to save the world. But, headsets can get in the way. If you’re watching someone else use VR, it’s hard to tell what’s going on and what they’re seeing. And if you’re in VR with someone else, there aren’t easy ways to see their facial expressions without an avatar representation.

Daydream Labs and Google Research teamed up to start exploring how to solve these problems. Using a combination of machine learning, 3D computer vision, and advanced rendering techniques, we’re now able to “remove” headsets and show a person’s identity, focus and full face in mixed reality. Mixed reality is a way to convey what’s happening inside and outside a virtual place in a two dimensional format. With this new technology, we’re able to make a more complete picture of the person in VR.

Using a calibrated VR setup including a headset (like the HTC Vive), a green screen, and a video camera, combined with accurate tracking and segmentation, you can see the “real world” and the interactive virtual elements together. We used it to show you what Tilt Brush can do and took Conan O’Brien on a virtual trip to outer space from our YouTube Space in New York. Unfortunately, in mixed reality, faces are obstructed by headsets. 

Steve Teeps in Tilt Brush

Artist Steve Teeple in Tilt Brush, shown in traditional mixed reality on the left and with headset removal on the right, which reveals the face and eyes for a more engaging experience.

The first step to removing the VR headset is to construct a dynamic 3D model of the person’s face, capturing facial variations as they blink or look in different directions. This model allows us to mimic where the person is looking, even though it’s hidden under the headset.

Next, we use an HTC Vive, modified by SMI to include eye-tracking, to capture the person’s eye-gaze from inside the headset. From there, we create the illusion of the person’s face by aligning and blending the 3D face model with a camera’s video stream. A translucent “scuba mask” look helps avoid an “uncanny valley” effect.

Finally, we composite the person into the virtual world, which requires calibrating between the Vive tracking system and the external camera. We’re able to automate this and make it highly accurate so movement looks natural. The end result is a complete view of both the virtual world and the person in it, including their entire face and where they’re looking.

Google Research and Daydream Labs headset removal

Our initial work focused on mixed reality is just one potential application of this technology. Seeing beyond VR headsets could help enhance communication and social interaction in VR. Imagine being able to VR video conference and see the expressions and nonverbal cues of the people you are talking to, or seeing your friend’s reactions as you play your favorite game together.

It’s just the beginning for this technology and we’ll share more moving forward. But, if you’re game to go deeper, we’ve described the technical details on the Google Research blog. This is an ongoing collaboration between Google Research, Daydream Labs, and the YouTube team. We’re making mixed reality capabilities available in select YouTube Spaces and are exploring how to bring this technology to select creators in the future. 

How Tring School creates a culture of student sharing that improves classroom results

Editor’s note: Leading up to Bett, one of the largest education technology conferences in the world, we’re highlighting teachers, students and administrators who are using educational technology to help schools flourish and make learning more interactive and impactful. In this post, Chris Lickfold, Director of Learning at Tring School in Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, explains how technology has encouraged their school’s 1,500 students to become more curious, independent learners. Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing more Impact Portraits on the blog. And check out @GoogleForEdu and #BETT2017 to learn what we’re talking about at Bett. Chris Lickfold will be speaking at Google’s teaching theatre at 11 a.m. on Jan. 26.

Traditional measures like attendance rates and grades are important benchmarks for a school’s performance, but they don’t paint a complete picture of student success. They don’t, for example, indicate whether students are engaged with their classwork or are inspired to discover knowledge.

Last year we brought Chromebooks to Tring School and trained teachers and students to use G Suite for Education. We were fortunate to be in a school environment that was already reaching its goals, but we saw an opportunity to improve further by creating a culture of sharing and engagement.

Shortly after bringing Google tools to students at Tring School, we saw students becoming more independent in their learning—and more curious about the world than we could have imagined. For example, when conducting primary research, we saw students collecting upwards of 300 data points using Google Forms, versus just a handful before the rollout of Google tools. Now, we’re beginning to see the impact of student-led learning in more traditional performance benchmarks. In our science classes, 21 percent more students performed above their expected level in 2016 compared to 2015. And 20 percent more students reached average levels in 2016 compared to 2015.

Tring 1.png

Students take ownership of learning—and ask teachers for support when they need it

With a few hundred Chromebooks and Google Classroom, we were able to fully appreciate our students’ proficiencies and challenges. Because Chromebooks allow for real-time collaboration, teachers can see school work in progress and offer support to students as they’re working on assignments instead of providing feedback after classwork was already completed. Students like the privacy of communicating within Classroom, and they’re less self-conscious about asking for help. Teachers are also able to direct students to specific resources they need. And the portability of Chromebooks lets teachers and students to share and respond to feedback even when they’re not in a classroom together.

“The increased feedback and interaction with teachers improved my marks,” one of our Year 11 students told us. “We never had this level of detail or ability to ask specific questions back within the work.”

Tring 2_Detail.jpg

Richer, more contextual learning environments

Chromebooks and G Suite have buttressed our flipped learning approach and given students more autonomy over how they learn and what they learn about. It’s easy to provision content on Chromebooks; teachers in our modern foreign languages department add tools like Google Maps so students can immerse themselves in the locations of the languages they’re studying. Students in our design and technology department can work on projects at their own pace. In other words: Students, not teachers, decide how they’ll meet learning goals.

As students work with their chosen resources, such as digital textbooks, teachers can tailor feedback and guidance for individual students—something they wouldn’t have had the time or tools to do in the past. G Suite applications help increase students’ accountability and lets teachers track homework more efficiently than paper-based methods, and that saved time can go back into working with students one-on-one.

Students share classwork with each other simply because it’s so easy to do so. Teachers don’t need to encourage sharing—it’s become part of learning. All in all, Google’s tools have helped us build a culture of sharing that’s not only fun and engaging for students and teachers—it actually delivers better results.

Read the full Tring School Impact Portrait and check out g.co/EduImpact for stories of impact from around the world.

How Tring School creates a culture of student sharing that improves classroom results

Editor’s note: Leading up to Bett, one of the largest education technology conferences in the world, we’re highlighting teachers, students and administrators who are using educational technology to help schools flourish and make learning more interactive and impactful. In this post, Chris Lickfold, Director of Learning at Tring School in Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, explains how technology has encouraged their school’s 1,500 students to become more curious, independent learners. Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing more Impact Portraits on the blog. And check out @GoogleForEdu and #BETT2017 to learn what we’re talking about at Bett. Chris Lickfold will be speaking at Google’s teaching theatre at 11 a.m. on Jan. 26.

Traditional measures like attendance rates and grades are important benchmarks for a school’s performance, but they don’t paint a complete picture of student success. They don’t, for example, indicate whether students are engaged with their classwork or are inspired to discover knowledge.

Last year we brought Chromebooks to Tring School and trained teachers and students to use G Suite for Education. We were fortunate to be in a school environment that was already reaching its goals, but we saw an opportunity to improve further by creating a culture of sharing and engagement.

Shortly after bringing Google tools to students at Tring School, we saw students becoming more independent in their learning—and more curious about the world than we could have imagined. For example, when conducting primary research, we saw students collecting upwards of 300 data points using Google Forms, versus just a handful before the rollout of Google tools. Now, we’re beginning to see the impact of student-led learning in more traditional performance benchmarks. In our science classes, 21 percent more students performed above their expected level in 2016 compared to 2015. And 20 percent more students reached average levels in 2016 compared to 2015.

Tring 1.png

Students take ownership of learning—and ask teachers for support when they need it

With a few hundred Chromebooks and Google Classroom, we were able to fully appreciate our students’ proficiencies and challenges. Because Chromebooks allow for real-time collaboration, teachers can see school work in progress and offer support to students as they’re working on assignments instead of providing feedback after classwork was already completed. Students like the privacy of communicating within Classroom, and they’re less self-conscious about asking for help. Teachers are also able to direct students to specific resources they need. And the portability of Chromebooks lets teachers and students to share and respond to feedback even when they’re not in a classroom together.

“The increased feedback and interaction with teachers improved my marks,” one of our Year 11 students told us. “We never had this level of detail or ability to ask specific questions back within the work.”

Tring 2_Detail.jpg

Richer, more contextual learning environments

Chromebooks and G Suite have buttressed our flipped learning approach and given students more autonomy over how they learn and what they learn about. It’s easy to provision content on Chromebooks; teachers in our modern foreign languages department add tools like Google Maps so students can immerse themselves in the locations of the languages they’re studying. Students in our design and technology department can work on projects at their own pace. In other words: Students, not teachers, decide how they’ll meet learning goals.

As students work with their chosen resources, such as digital textbooks, teachers can tailor feedback and guidance for individual students—something they wouldn’t have had the time or tools to do in the past. G Suite applications help increase students’ accountability and lets teachers track homework more efficiently than paper-based methods, and that saved time can go back into working with students one-on-one.

Students share classwork with each other simply because it’s so easy to do so. Teachers don’t need to encourage sharing—it’s become part of learning. All in all, Google’s tools have helped us build a culture of sharing that’s not only fun and engaging for students and teachers—it actually delivers better results.

Read the full Tring School Impact Portrait and check out g.co/EduImpact for stories of impact from around the world.

Silence speaks louder than words when finding malware

In Android Security, we’re constantly working to better understand how to make Android devices operate more smoothly and securely. One security solution included on all devices with Google Play is Verify apps. Verify apps checks if there are Potentially Harmful Apps (PHAs) on your device. If a PHA is found, Verify apps warns the user and enables them to uninstall the app.

But, sometimes devices stop checking up with Verify apps. This may happen for a non-security related reason, like buying a new phone, or, it could mean something more concerning is going on. When a device stops checking up with Verify apps, it is considered Dead or Insecure (DOI). An app with a high enough percentage of DOI devices downloading it, is considered a DOI app. We use the DOI metric, along with the other security systems to help determine if an app is a PHA to protect Android users. Additionally, when we discover vulnerabilities, we patch Android devices with our security update system.

This blog post explores the Android Security team’s research to identify the security-related reasons that devices stop working and prevent it from happening in the future.

Flagging DOI Apps

To understand this problem more deeply, the Android Security team correlates app install attempts and DOI devices to find apps that harm the device in order to protect our users.

With these factors in mind, we then focus on ‘retention’. A device is considered retained if it continues to perform periodic Verify apps security check ups after an app download. If it doesn’t, it’s considered potentially dead or insecure (DOI). An app’s retention rate is the percentage of all retained devices that downloaded the app in one day. Because retention is a strong indicator of device health, we work to maximize the ecosystem’s retention rate.

Therefore, we use an app DOI scorer, which assumes that all apps should have a similar device retention rate. If an app’s retention rate is a couple of standard deviations lower than average, the DOI scorer flags it. A common way to calculate the number of standard deviations from the average is called a Z-score. The equation for the Z-score is below.

Z-score for Dead or Insecure devices
  • N = Number of devices that downloaded the app.
  • x = Number of retained devices that downloaded the app.
  • p = Probability of a device downloading any app will be retained.

In this context, we call the Z-score of an app’s retention rate a DOI score. The DOI score indicates an app has a statistically significant lower retention rate if the Z-score is much less than -3.7. This means that if the null hypothesis is true, there is much less than a 0.01% chance the magnitude of the Z-score being as high. In this case, the null hypothesis means the app accidently correlated with lower retention rate independent of what the app does.

This allows for percolation of extreme apps (with low retention rate and high number of downloads) to the top of the DOI list. From there, we combine the DOI score with other information to determine whether to classify the app as a PHA. We then use Verify apps to remove existing installs of the app and prevent future installs of the app.

Android security checkups for DOI devices
Difference between a regular and DOI app download on the same device

Results in the wild

Among others, the DOI score flagged many apps in three well known malware families— Hummingbad, Ghost Push, and Gooligan. Although they behave differently, the DOI scorer flagged over 25,000 apps in these three families of malware because they can degrade the Android experience to such an extent that a non-negligible amount of users factory reset or abandon their devices. This approach provides us with another perspective to discover PHAs and block them before they gain popularity. Without the DOI scorer, many of these apps would have escaped the extra scrutiny of a manual review.

The DOI scorer and all of Android’s anti-malware work is one of multiple layers protecting users and developers on Android. For an overview of Android’s security and transparency efforts, check out our page.

Silence speaks louder than words when finding malware

In Android Security, we’re constantly working to better understand how to make Android devices operate more smoothly and securely. One security solution included on all devices with Google Play is Verify apps. Verify apps checks if there are Potentially Harmful Apps (PHAs) on your device. If a PHA is found, Verify apps warns the user and enables them to uninstall the app.

But, sometimes devices stop checking up with Verify apps. This may happen for a non-security related reason, like buying a new phone, or, it could mean something more concerning is going on. When a device stops checking up with Verify apps, it is considered Dead or Insecure (DOI). An app with a high enough percentage of DOI devices downloading it, is considered a DOI app. We use the DOI metric, along with the other security systems to help determine if an app is a PHA to protect Android users. Additionally, when we discover vulnerabilities, we patch Android devices with our security update system.

This blog post explores the Android Security team’s research to identify the security-related reasons that devices stop working and prevent it from happening in the future.

Flagging DOI Apps

To understand this problem more deeply, the Android Security team correlates app install attempts and DOI devices to find apps that harm the device in order to protect our users.

With these factors in mind, we then focus on ‘retention’. A device is considered retained if it continues to perform periodic Verify apps security check ups after an app download. If it doesn’t, it’s considered potentially dead or insecure (DOI). An app’s retention rate is the percentage of all retained devices that downloaded the app in one day. Because retention is a strong indicator of device health, we work to maximize the ecosystem’s retention rate.

Therefore, we use an app DOI scorer, which assumes that all apps should have a similar device retention rate. If an app’s retention rate is a couple of standard deviations lower than average, the DOI scorer flags it. A common way to calculate the number of standard deviations from the average is called a Z-score. The equation for the Z-score is below.

Z-score for Dead or Insecure devices
  • N = Number of devices that downloaded the app.
  • x = Number of retained devices that downloaded the app.
  • p = Probability of a device downloading any app will be retained.

In this context, we call the Z-score of an app’s retention rate a DOI score. The DOI score indicates an app has a statistically significant lower retention rate if the Z-score is much less than -3.7. This means that if the null hypothesis is true, there is much less than a 0.01% chance the magnitude of the Z-score being as high. In this case, the null hypothesis means the app accidently correlated with lower retention rate independent of what the app does.

This allows for percolation of extreme apps (with low retention rate and high number of downloads) to the top of the DOI list. From there, we combine the DOI score with other information to determine whether to classify the app as a PHA. We then use Verify apps to remove existing installs of the app and prevent future installs of the app.

Android security checkups for DOI devices
Difference between a regular and DOI app download on the same device

Results in the wild

Among others, the DOI score flagged many apps in three well known malware families— Hummingbad, Ghost Push, and Gooligan. Although they behave differently, the DOI scorer flagged over 25,000 apps in these three families of malware because they can degrade the Android experience to such an extent that a non-negligible amount of users factory reset or abandon their devices. This approach provides us with another perspective to discover PHAs and block them before they gain popularity. Without the DOI scorer, many of these apps would have escaped the extra scrutiny of a manual review.

The DOI scorer and all of Android’s anti-malware work is one of multiple layers protecting users and developers on Android. For an overview of Android’s security and transparency efforts, check out our page.

Google Play Music’s “Ones to Watch” Artists in 2017

Everyone loves to be one of the first to discover a new up-and-coming artist before they make it, but with thousands of thriving artists out there launching new music daily, discovering the next big musical breakthrough isn’t easy. Google Play Music has you covered! After hours of listening, analyzing and discussing who you should keep your eye (or ear) on this year, our team of music experts put together a list of the top 10 “Ones to Watch” in 2017—and a new playlist featuring top tracks from these rising stars.

Google Play Music’s ‘Ones to Watch’ for 2017

  1. Lost Kings
  2. Kodie Shane
  3. Bishop Briggs
  4. Midland
  5. Allison Crutchfield
  6. Aminé
  7. Maggie Rogers
  8. Kamaiyah
  9. Kehlani
  10. Rag’n’Bone Man

So, how did we select our “Ones to Watch” list? Our Google Play Music editorial team locked themselves in a room (well, sort of) and considered everything from track performance on Pop Before It Breaks and Blogged 50 to Google search counts and social media reach, to just pure, inalienable music expert gut instinct. Then, by way of committee, lots of strong coffee, some heated debates, and even more coffee, the final 10 artists were chosen.

Listen now so that when one of their singles hits the radio, you can say with confidence that you heard it first.


Learn more about the 2017 “Ones to Watch” Artists:

Lost Kings

EDM duo Lost Kings scored an Internet hit in 2015 with the Carl Carlton via Chris Brown “Bad.” Their latest single, “Phone Down,” with singer and hit songwriter Emily Warren shows how they could follow in the The Chainsmokers’ footsteps from the blogs onto the pop charts. For fans of: The Chainsmokers, Classixx, Matoma.

Kodie Shane

Atlanta’s Kodie Shane opened her debut mixtape with “Drip In My Walk,” one of the best do-it-for-the-Vine,Travolta-in-white-polyester swagger anthems we heard in 2016. “Baby, you know I’m a star!” Here’s hoping 2017 is the year that becomes incontrovertible. For fans of Lil Yachty, Dreezy, D.R.A.M.

Bishop Briggs

Bound to be a festival favorite this year, Bishop Briggs brings energy and an almost manic array of beats to her dark synth-pop. With a soulful voice that packs a punch, Briggs snagged an opening spot on Coldplay’s stadium tour, a long way from the karaoke bars she performed in growing up. For fans of: BANKS, Alessia Cara, St. Vincent.

Midland

Gracefully nodding to ’70s and ’80s country with a modern twist, Texas trio Midland are poised to bring back traditionalism to the country airwaves. Their harmonies and classic steel guitar evoke the Old West erasing the bro-country invasion of recent years. For fans of: George Strait, Dwight Yoakam, The Eagles.

Allison Crutchfield

Twin sister and erstwhile bandmate of Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield, Allison Crutchfield is a powerful indie rock singer-songwriter in her own right. “Dean’s Room” is a propulsive and buoyant power-pop number from forthcoming the album “Tourists in This Town,” which showcases Crutchfield’s softer songwriting. For fans of: Angel Olsen, Mitski, Courtney Barnett.

Aminé

If Clipse and Pharrell wrote a love song, it would probably sound like “Caroline,” the off-kilter and impossibly catchy debut song from Portland, OR native Aminé. We’ll be eagerly anticipating his debut album this year. For fans of: Rae Sremmurd, The Neptunes, Tarantino movies.  

Maggie Rogers

Hand-picked and boosted to viral fame by no less powerful a taste-maker than Pharrell, young singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers is bound for big things in 2017 and beyond. “Alaska,” the song that started it all, is an infectious, alternately frosty and thawed-out blend of electro-pop, R&B, and Rogers’ roots in indie folk. For fans of: BANKS, Tove Lo, Låpsley.

Kamaiyah

This Bay Area MC has already held her own against Drake and Y.G., when she released a critically acclaimed mixtape and rhymed her own name with “please retire.” When that flat, unflappably boss flow of hers rolls by, you will sit up and pay attention. For fans of: Lil Yachty, Young Jeezy, D.R.A.M.

Kehlani

Listen to this Oakland R&B singer’s cooing confession about needing a “Gangsta” on the “Suicide Squad” soundtrack. If you prefer your slinky, intimate soul sans the Jared Leto association, there was also the commanding, ubiquitous 2016 single “CRZY” to get you hooked. The first tracks off her major label debut (out Jan. 27) suggests an even wider range. For fans of: Jhené Aiko, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Tinashe.

Rag’n’Bone Man

Rag’n’Bone Man has already scored a top 10 hit in Germany and his native U.K. with the hip-hop meets blues stomper “Human.” Expect this aggro-tender song to turn up in every “gritty” movie trailer after his debut album drops in February. For fans of: Hozier, Imagine Dragons, impressive beards.

Google Play Music’s “Ones to Watch” Artists in 2017

Everyone loves to be one of the first to discover a new up-and-coming artist before they make it, but with thousands of thriving artists out there launching new music daily, discovering the next big musical breakthrough isn’t easy. Google Play Music has you covered! After hours of listening, analyzing and discussing who you should keep your eye (or ear) on this year, our team of music experts put together a list of the top 10 “Ones to Watch” in 2017—and a new playlist featuring top tracks from these rising stars.

Google Play Music’s ‘Ones to Watch’ for 2017

  1. Lost Kings
  2. Kodie Shane
  3. Bishop Briggs
  4. Midland
  5. Allison Crutchfield
  6. Aminé
  7. Maggie Rogers
  8. Kamaiyah
  9. Kehlani
  10. Rag’n’Bone Man

So, how did we select our “Ones to Watch” list? Our Google Play Music editorial team locked themselves in a room (well, sort of) and considered everything from track performance on Pop Before It Breaks and Blogged 50 to Google search counts and social media reach, to just pure, inalienable music expert gut instinct. Then, by way of committee, lots of strong coffee, some heated debates, and even more coffee, the final 10 artists were chosen.

Listen now so that when one of their singles hits the radio, you can say with confidence that you heard it first.


Learn more about the 2017 “Ones to Watch” Artists:

Lost Kings

EDM duo Lost Kings scored an Internet hit in 2015 with the Carl Carlton via Chris Brown “Bad.” Their latest single, “Phone Down,” with singer and hit songwriter Emily Warren shows how they could follow in the The Chainsmokers’ footsteps from the blogs onto the pop charts. For fans of: The Chainsmokers, Classixx, Matoma.

Kodie Shane

Atlanta’s Kodie Shane opened her debut mixtape with “Drip In My Walk,” one of the best do-it-for-the-Vine,Travolta-in-white-polyester swagger anthems we heard in 2016. “Baby, you know I’m a star!” Here’s hoping 2017 is the year that becomes incontrovertible. For fans of Lil Yachty, Dreezy, D.R.A.M.

Bishop Briggs

Bound to be a festival favorite this year, Bishop Briggs brings energy and an almost manic array of beats to her dark synth-pop. With a soulful voice that packs a punch, Briggs snagged an opening spot on Coldplay’s stadium tour, a long way from the karaoke bars she performed in growing up. For fans of: BANKS, Alessia Cara, St. Vincent.

Midland

Gracefully nodding to ’70s and ’80s country with a modern twist, Texas trio Midland are poised to bring back traditionalism to the country airwaves. Their harmonies and classic steel guitar evoke the Old West erasing the bro-country invasion of recent years. For fans of: George Strait, Dwight Yoakam, The Eagles.

Allison Crutchfield

Twin sister and erstwhile bandmate of Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield, Allison Crutchfield is a powerful indie rock singer-songwriter in her own right. “Dean’s Room” is a propulsive and buoyant power-pop number from forthcoming the album “Tourists in This Town,” which showcases Crutchfield’s softer songwriting. For fans of: Angel Olsen, Mitski, Courtney Barnett.

Aminé

If Clipse and Pharrell wrote a love song, it would probably sound like “Caroline,” the off-kilter and impossibly catchy debut song from Portland, OR native Aminé. We’ll be eagerly anticipating his debut album this year. For fans of: Rae Sremmurd, The Neptunes, Tarantino movies.  

Maggie Rogers

Hand-picked and boosted to viral fame by no less powerful a taste-maker than Pharrell, young singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers is bound for big things in 2017 and beyond. “Alaska,” the song that started it all, is an infectious, alternately frosty and thawed-out blend of electro-pop, R&B, and Rogers’ roots in indie folk. For fans of: BANKS, Tove Lo, Låpsley.

Kamaiyah

This Bay Area MC has already held her own against Drake and Y.G., when she released a critically acclaimed mixtape and rhymed her own name with “please retire.” When that flat, unflappably boss flow of hers rolls by, you will sit up and pay attention. For fans of: Lil Yachty, Young Jeezy, D.R.A.M.

Kehlani

Listen to this Oakland R&B singer’s cooing confession about needing a “Gangsta” on the “Suicide Squad” soundtrack. If you prefer your slinky, intimate soul sans the Jared Leto association, there was also the commanding, ubiquitous 2016 single “CRZY” to get you hooked. The first tracks off her major label debut (out Jan. 27) suggests an even wider range. For fans of: Jhené Aiko, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Tinashe.

Rag’n’Bone Man

Rag’n’Bone Man has already scored a top 10 hit in Germany and his native U.K. with the hip-hop meets blues stomper “Human.” Expect this aggro-tender song to turn up in every “gritty” movie trailer after his debut album drops in February. For fans of: Hozier, Imagine Dragons, impressive beards.

Reflecting on Google’s GNI Engagement

 As the year comes to a close, we’re reflecting on Google’s Global Network Initiative (GNI) assessment and some of this year’s important developments in our work to protect the free expression and privacy interests of our users.

Last week, in our continued effort to increase transparency around government demands for user data, we made available to the public the National Security Letters (NSLs) Google has received where, either through litigation or legislation, we have been freed of nondisclosure obligations. Our goal in doing so is to shed more light on the nature and scope of these requests. We’ve also supported policy efforts to ensure that the privacy interests of non-U.S. persons are addressed as U.S. policymakers consider government surveillance issues.

Earlier this month, we highlighted our efforts to comply with the right to be forgotten in Europe. For much of the last year, we’ve worked to defend the idea that each country should be able to balance freedom of expression and privacy in the way that country sees fit, and not according to another country’s interpretation. One Data Protection Authority, the French Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (the CNIL), ordered Google to delist French right to be forgotten removals for users everywhere. We agree with the CNIL that privacy is a fundamental right — but so, too, is the right to free expression. Any balance struck between those two rights must be accompanied by territorial limits, consistent with the basic principles of international law.

These are some examples of Google’s public policy work that illustrate our commitment to the freedom of expression and privacy rights of our users. We know that pressing global issues are best addressed in partnership with with key stakeholders — and the GNI is critical to Google’s efforts.

The GNI is at the core of our multi-stakeholder engagement on free expression and privacy issues. Google is proud to be a founding member of the GNI, an initiative that brings together ICT companies with civil society organizations, investors, and academics to define a shared approach to freedom of expression and privacy online. The GNI provides a framework for company operations, rooted in international standards; promotes accountability of ICT sector companies through independent assessment; enables multi-stakeholder policy engagement; and creates shared learning opportunities across stakeholder boundaries.

Earlier this year, GNI released the second round of assessments, and announced the board’s determination that Google is compliant with the GNI framework. The assessment is an important tool for companies, NGOs, academics, and others working together to review how companies address risks to privacy and free expression.

The assessment process includes a review of relevant internal systems, policies and procedures for implementing the GNI Principles (“the process review”), and an examination of specific cases or examples that show how the company is implementing them in practice (the “case review”).

Our cases were selected for their salience to our approach to implementing the GNI Principles, taking into consideration Google’s products and services, geographical footprint, operating environments, and human rights risk profile. In addition, to the Google-specific cases discussed in GNI’s public assessment report, we wanted to provide additional examples to illustrate the types of non-U.S. cases reviewed.

Request for user data
A request was made for Gmail user information by a federal police department. A key part of our process is making sure that the requests we receive are appropriately supported by legal process. In this case, we found that the initial request was inadequate due to failure to have a judicial stamp or signature, and we therefore pushed back, as we would not comply unless the request was judicially authorized. Once these items were obtained and, we determined that it was a valid legal request (including that it was not overbroad), we complied with the request.

Request for removal
A request for Blogger content removal was made by a regulatory agency. The requestor claimed that content was subject to removal under the country’s statute prohibiting appeals to mass riots, extremist activities, and mass actions against established order. In reviewing the request, we determined that the content did not violate our terms of service.  We then responded by requesting a copy of the decision citing specific URLs that are illegal. This would be evidence of an authoritative interpretation of the local law as applied to the content.  As there was no response from the requestor, and the content did not violate our company policies, the request was denied and we did not remove the material.

RTBF: Push for Judicial Review; Careful Development and Implementation of Rigorous Removal Process for Requests
This example describes how we responded to requests subsequent to the Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja ruling, which presented risks to freedom of expression. In the Costeja case, we appealed through the court process, but were unsuccessful.  We pushed back on this ruling because we considered the requirement for Google to take down this information to be in conflict with freedom of expression. On appeal, the Court of Justice of the European Union found that people have the right to ask for information to be removed from search results that include their names if it is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive.” In deciding what to remove, search engines must also have regard to the public interest, without additional guidance regarding what information constitutes “public interest.” The court also decided that search engines don’t qualify for a “journalistic exception.” We continue to fight court cases seeking to expand this requirement for takedowns globally.

We also convened the Advisory Council to Google on the Right to be Forgotten to review input from dozens of experts in meetings across Europe, as well as from thousands of submissions via the Web. The Council included Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. The Council advised us on performing the balancing act between an individual’s right to privacy and the public’s interest in access to information.

In response to the Costeja ruling, Google established a dedicated team to develop and implement a system to remove valid RtbF requests. We evaluate each request appropriately, complying with the law, but making sure that, if there is a legal basis for the content to remain available, we will assess how that applies. To address the ruling, we assembled a team to address the new category of requests arising from the rights articulated in Costeja. Our web removals site was updated to include information about and a portal for RtbF requests. Requests are reviewed by the legal removals team; after review, the requester is notified of the determination. Since implementing this system, we have delisted approximately 780,000 URLs. Our process responds to individual requests and carefully evaluates  each request against the criteria for removal. We also notify websites when one of their pages has been removed pursuant to a RtbF claim. In addition to removing URLs, we include information about RtbF requests and removals in our Transparency Report.

Our assessors also provided us with recommendations for enhancing our implementation of the GNI Principles. These recommendations, combined with feedback and ongoing engagement with GNI stakeholders, will inform our policies and practices and strengthen our advocacy in 2017.