From the desert to the sea: Google Voice Search experiments

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 | 3:24 PM

(Cross posted from the Google Australia Blog)

As an engineer I like to solve problems and I like to test stuff, the bigger the better. A couple of months ago I was intrigued by a challenge: Australians have the second highest smartphone penetration in the world (second only to Singapore) but we have one of the lowest usage rates of Google Voice Search. This had some of us scratching our heads, because Google Voice Search understands our Australian accents.

So we thought it would be fun to show Australians how well Google Voice Search works by conducting a series of experiments in remote Australian locations. I went to the middle of the South Australian desert with James, a fellow engineer. We found some of the hottest, reddest earth in the country to test a long distance voice search - 50 metres away from the phone! Here’s our adventure:



Meanwhile, our fellow Google engineers Noel and Alice went up north to the beautiful Great Barrier Reef, to test Google Voice Search underwater.



Now that you’ve seen what Google Voice Search can do, we hope these experiments will inspire you to try it yourself in a more everyday setting, and with your broadest Aussie accent!

You can use Google Voice Search on Android phones by pressing the microphone button on the homescreen or downloading the app. You can also download the app for the iPhone here.

Posted by Mike Lawther, Software Engineer.

Google Catalogs presents the coveted Neiman Marcus Christmas Book and debuts the Fantasy Gifts Retrospective--for free on your tablet

Thursday, October 20, 2011 | 11:33 AM

(Cross-posted from the Google Commerce blog)

Neiman Marcus is known for the outrageously beautiful and unique merchandise showcased in their annual Christmas Book. Think of the most amazing gifts you can imagine -- a beautiful Chanel handbag, a Orefici watch, or perhaps your very own tailored mermaid suit or customizable cupcake car.

For this holiday season, Google Catalogs has collaborated with Neiman Marcus to offer you a free, browsable copy of this year’s Christmas Book. We’ve also created the very first historic compilation of Neiman Marcus Fantasy Gifts from the past ten years. It’s called the Fantasy Gifts Retrospective and you’ll only find it on the Google Catalogs app for iPad, available for free in the App Store.

To celebrate the Fantasy Gifts Retrospective, we’ve picked out our favorite gifts from the past 10 years! Sadly, gifts from prior years are no longer for sale, but we trust you'll enjoy the 2011 gifts and the walk down memory lane.




Unwrapping Ice Cream Sandwich on the Galaxy Nexus

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 | 7:08 PM

(Cross-posted on the Official Google blog)

Beaming a video with a single tap or unlocking a device with only a smile sounds like science fiction. Now, you can actually do these things (and more) with a phone that fits in the palm of your hand.

Wednesday morning in Hong Kong—together with Samsung—we unveiled Galaxy Nexus, the first phone designed for the latest release of Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich.



With a super slim profile, Galaxy Nexus features a 4.65” Contour Display with true high definition (720p) resolution and a lightning-fast dual core 1.2ghz processor combined with 4G LTE or HSPA+ technology. Galaxy Nexus also features the latest in software: Ice Cream Sandwich makes Android simple and beautiful, and takes the smartphone to beyond smart.

Beauty and simplicity
With Ice Cream Sandwich, our mission was to build a mobile OS that works on both phones and tablets, and to make the power of Android enticing and intuitive. We created a new font that’s optimized for HD displays and eliminated all hardware buttons in favor of adaptable software buttons. We also dramatically improved the keyboard, made notifications more interactive and created resizable widgets.

The desktop-class browser is significantly faster, featuring a refined tab manager and the ability to sync your bookmarks with Google Chrome. Ice Cream Sandwich also features the best mobile Gmail experience to date, with a new design that lets you quickly swipe through your inbox and search messages even when you’re offline. Calendar boasts a clean new look and you can zoom into your schedule with a pinch.

Connect and share
People are at the heart of Ice Cream Sandwich. We rethought how you browse your contacts with the new People app, which combines high-resolution photos and updates from Google+ and other social services. It’s also easier to capture and share your life with family and friends. Galaxy Nexus sports a high-end camera with zero shutter lag, automatic focus, top notch low-light performance and a simple way to capture panoramic pictures. Shoot amazing photos or 1080p video, and then edit and share them directly from your phone.

Beyond smart
Galaxy Nexus isn’t just a smartphone—it’s beyond smart. Ice Cream Sandwich gives you complete control over the amount of mobile data you use by helping you better understand and manage it. We’re also introducing Android Beam, which uses near field communication (NFC) to instantly share webpages, YouTube videos, maps, directions and apps by simply tapping two phones together. Face Unlock uses state-of-the-art facial recognition technology to unlock your phone with nothing more than a smile.

This weekend marks the third birthday of the G1, the first-ever Android phone. Nine releases later, more than 550,000 Android devices are activated daily.

Starting in November, Galaxy Nexus will be available in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. Check out the Nexus website for a product tour and more info.

More Google Wallet merchants are live. Now you can pay AND save in a single tap.

Monday, October 17, 2011 | 1:22 PM

(Cross-posted on the Official Google Blog)

We’re hearing from people at check-out counters throughout the country that paying with your phone is a little like magic. Just look at the ecstatic reaction on the faces of our friends who made their first Google Wallet purchases last Thursday.



Today, our partners American Eagle Outfitters, The Container Store, Foot Locker, Guess, Jamba Juice, Macy’s, OfficeMax and Toys“R”Us are rolling out an even better Google Wallet experience. For the first time ever in the U.S., at these select stores, you can not only pay but also redeem coupons and/or earn rewards points—all with a single tap of your phone. This is what we call the Google Wallet SingleTap experience.

With Google Wallet in hand, you can walk into a Jamba Juice, American Eagle Outfitters or any other partner store. Once you’ve ordered that Razzmatazz smoothie or found the right color Slim Jean, head straight to the cashier and tap your phone to pay and save—that’s it. You don’t have to shuffle around to find the right coupon to scan or rewards card to stamp because it all happens in the blink of an eye.

The Offers tab in Google Wallet has been updated to include a new "Featured Offers" section with discounts that are exclusive to Google Wallet. Today, these include 15% off at American Eagle Outfitters, 10% off at The Container Store, 15% off at Macy’s and an all-fruit smoothie for $2 at Jamba Juice. There are many more Google Wallet exclusive discounts to come, and you can save your favorites in Google Wallet so they’ll be automatically applied to your bill when you check out.




Organizing loyalty cards in your wallet is getting easier too. Today, Foot Locker, Guess, OfficeMax and American Eagle Outfitters are providing loyalty cards for Google Wallet so you can rack up reward points automatically as you shop. More of these are on the way.

One more thing—in response to user feedback, we’ve improved transaction details for the Google Prepaid Card with real-time transaction information including merchant name, location, dollar value and time of each transaction. Here’s what it looks like:






Finally, a special thanks to Chevron, D’Agostino, Faber News Now, Gristedes Supermarkets and Pinkberry who are now also working to equip their stores to accept Google Wallet.

It’s still early days for Google Wallet, but this is an important step in expanding the ecosystem of participating merchants to make shopping faster and easier in more places. If you’re a merchant and want to work with us to make shopping easier for your customers and connect with them in new ways, please sign up on the Google Wallet site. And if you’re a shopper and want to purchase a Nexus S 4G phone from Sprint with Google Wallet, visit this page.

Start the conversation with Google Translate for Android

Thursday, October 13, 2011 | 1:07 AM


Mobile technology and the web have made it easier for people around the world to access information and communicate with each other. But there’s still a daunting obstacle: the language barrier. We’re trying to knock down that barrier so everyone can communicate and connect more easily.

Earlier this year, we launched an update to Google Translate for Android with an experimental feature called Conversation Mode, which enables you to you translate speech back and forth between languages. We began with just English and Spanish, but today we’re expanding to 14 languages, adding Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Russian and Turkish.




To use Conversation Mode, speak into your phone’s microphone, and the Translate app will translate what you’ve said and read the translation out loud. The person you’re speaking with can then reply in their language, and Conversation Mode will translate what they said and read it back to you.

This technology is still in alpha, so factors like background noise and regional accents may affect accuracy. But since it depends on examples to learn, the quality will improve as people use it more. We wanted to get this early version out to help start the conversation no matter where you are in the world.

We’ve also added some other features to make it easier to speak and read as you translate. For example, if you wanted to say “Where is the train?” but Google Translate recognizes your speech as “Where is the rain?”, you can now correct the text before you translate it. You can also add unrecognized words to your personal dictionary.

When viewing written translation results, you can tap the magnifying glass icon to view the translated text in full screen mode so you can easily show it to someone nearby, or just pinch to zoom in for a close-up view.



Tap the magnifying glass icon to view translations full screen.


Finally, we’ve also optimized the app for larger screens like your Android tablet.

While we work to expand full Conversation Mode to even more languages, Google Translate for Android still supports text translation among 63 languages, voice input in 17 of those languages, and text-to-speech in 24 of them.

Download the Google Translate app in Android Market — it’s available for tablets and mobile phones running Android 2.2 and up.


An enhanced Google Docs experience on Android tablets

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 | 10:02 AM

(Cross-posted from the Google Docs blog)

Earlier this year, we introduced the Google Docs app for Android. Since then, many users have downloaded the app and enjoyed the benefits of being able to access, edit and share docs on the go.

Today’s update to the app makes Google Docs work better than ever on your tablet. With an entirely new design, we’ve customized the look to make the most of the larger screen space on tablets. The layout includes a three-panel view, which allows you to navigate through filters and collections, view your document list, and see document details, all at once.

Looking at the details panel on the right side, you can see a thumbnail to preview a document and its details before opening it. From the panel, you can see who can view or edit any doc.

New 3-panel view for improved browsing



Autocomplete makes sharing with others on the go even easier


These features are now available in 46 languages on tablet devices with Android 3.0+ (Honeycomb) and above.

You can download the app from the Android Market and let us know what you think in the comments or by posting on the forum. Learn more by visiting the help center.