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New phones, new games, new looks. Let’s take a peek at all the happenings this week in search:

All you can eat? 
The Olive Garden learned this week that it’s risky to get between people and their food. The restaurant chain’s new “Never Ending Pasta Pass” offered up to 1,000 people seven weeks of unlimited pasta, salad and those sneaky-good breadsticks for just $100. The rush of pasta lovers eager for a deal crashed the Olive Garden website before the pass was even for sale—and thousands more turned to search to learn more about the debacle.

The latest edition
It was a big week for our neighbors from Cupertino. Apple’s latest announcement this week flooded the search trends, with more than 10 million searches for the new iPhone 6, along with its release date and price. People were also curious about the new Apple Watch, the band U2—whose latest album Apple gave away for free to all iTunes users—and how the announcement was affecting AAPL stock.

And baby makes four for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, who announced this week that they’re expecting a little brother or sister for one-year-old Prince George. People turned to the web to learn more about the news. Start your office naming pools now! 

Football frenzy 
A full 15 out of 20 top searches on Sunday were related to the first Sunday of football season, with the Cowboys, Steelers and Broncos topping the pack—on search, at least. But unfortunately, it was events off the field that had many people turning to the web this week. Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely from the league on Monday, after TMZ released a video that appears to show him assaulting his then-fiancee in an elevator. More than 2 million searches for Rice followed—the highest spike ever. People were also looking for more information on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in an effort to understand whether the league’s leadership had knowledge of the incident earlier in the year.


POTUS and ISIS
Just a day earlier, President Obama announced that the U.S. military would expand its air strikes in Iraq and now Syria, against the extremist group ISIS. Searches for ISIL, the term the President used for the group, climbed the day of his speech as people looked for more information on the news. 

Transformations 
The latest season of “The Biggest Loser” premiered yesterday with new trainers and a new concept—“Glory Days,” in which former athletes compete to regain their former fitness—leading people to the web to learn more. And “The Sixth Sense” star Haley Joel Osment was in the news this week—but we won’t blame you if you missed it, since he was nearly unrecognizable from his former self. Osment is filming a new Kevin Smith movie “Yoga Hosers,” in which he plays Canadian fascist journalist Adrien Arcand.

Tip of the week 
September is National Emergency Preparedness Month. With the Google Search App, you can get warnings from Google Public Alerts when bad weather is on its way. Take a few minutes to get prepared by learning more about Alerts, which are available on Google Now, Search and Maps.

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Imagine trying to keep track of another person’s real-time edits in a document—using only your ears. Or trying to create a table from spreadsheet data—without being able to clearly see the cells. Whether you’re backing up a file in Drive or crunching some numbers in Sheets, it should be easy to bring your ideas to life using Google’s tools. But if you’re blind or have low vision, you may need to rely on assistive technologies such as screen readers and Braille displays—and that can make working in the cloud challenging. While screen readers can parse static webpages (like this blog) relatively easily, it’s much harder for them to know what to say in interactive applications like Google Docs because the actions they need to describe are much more complex.

With these reasons in mind, today we’re announcing some improvements to Drive and all our editors—Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, and Forms—specifically designed with blind and low-vision users in mind.
Improved screen reader support in Drive and Docs 
In June, we introduced a new version of Drive that’s sleeker, easier to navigate and much faster. But just as importantly, the new Drive also includes better keyboard accessibility, support for zoom and high-contrast mode and improved usability with screen readers.

Across Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings and Forms, you’ll find that it’s now much easier to use a screen reader, with nicer text-to-voice verbalization and improvements to keyboard navigation. You’ll also notice other updates, including:
  • Support for alt text on images in Docs, so you can tell a screen reader what they should say to describe an image 
  • Better support for using a keyboard to edit charts and pivot tables in Sheets 
  • Additional screen reader improvements specifically for Docs, Sheets and Slides, including support for spelling suggestions, comments and revision history 
  • The ability to quickly search the menus and perform actions in Docs, Slides and Drawings (and soon Sheets and Forms)—even if you don’t know the action’s key sequence 
Collaborating with others is easier too: in Docs, Sheets, Slides or Drawings, screen readers announce when people enter or leave the document, and you’ll now also hear when others are editing alongside you.

Refreshable Braille display support 
If you use a Braille display, you can now use it to read and enter text in Docs, Slides and Drawings. Even if you don't use a Braille display, with Braille support, your screen reader’s settings for character echoing are automatically followed. Enabling Braille also dramatically reduces the lag between when you press a key and when it’s announced by your screen reader, and improves the announcements of punctuation and whitespace. Learn how to enable Braille support in our Help Center.

Get up and going faster
The first time you use a screen reader or a Braille display, getting up to speed can be a daunting task. But it’s simpler with new step-by-step guides for Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms and Drawings.
You can also access the in-product “Help” menu at any time without interrupting your work, or use the updated shortcut help dialog to easily search through keyboard shortcuts if you don’t remember them.

Finally, we’re offering phone support for Google Drive accessibility questions. If you get stuck, visit support.google.com/drive to request a phone call and someone from our team will reach out to you.

What’s next
Referring to recent updates to Google Drive, Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said at this year’s National Convention: “The progress...during the last few months has just been positively extraordinary.” We’re pleased the community has welcomed these improvements, and will continue to work with organizations like the NFB to make even more progress.

Everyone, regardless of ability, should be able to experience all that the web has to offer. To find out more about our commitment to a fully accessible web, visit the new Google Accessibility site at www.google.com/accessibility.

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We know how important it is to keep in touch with friends and family, especially when they’re spread around the world. Hangouts already makes it easy to send a quick message, or start a group video chat. But sometimes it’s best to just call to say “I love you,” and with the new version of Hangouts you can.

Starting today you can make voice calls from Hangouts on Android, iOS and the web. It’s free to call other Hangouts users, it’s free to call numbers in the U.S. and Canada, and the international rates are really low. So keeping in touch is easier and more affordable than ever.

To get started on Android, just grab the new version of Hangouts (v2.3, rolling out over the next few days), then install the accompanying dialer to turn on voice calls. On iOS and the web, voice calls will be available the next time you open the app.

Voice calls in Hangouts: call history (left); dialer (middle); in a call (right)

Whether it’s your sister in Paris, your best friend in Boston or Jenny at 867-5309, Hangouts lets you call the people you care about at little or no cost. So download the app and dial your loved ones today!

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We recently finalized an investment that will put a 82MW solar power plant on top of an old oil and gas field in Kern County, Calif. The new deal with SunEdison will generate enough energy to power 10,000 homes.

Our investment in the Regulus solar project will give new life to a long-valued piece of land, and there's something a little poetic about creating a renewable resource on land that once creaked with oil wells. Over the years, this particular site in California has gone from 30 oil wells to five as it was exhausted of profitable fossil fuel reserves. The land sat for some time and today we’re ready to spiff things up. With the help of our $145 million equity commitment, SunEdison is draping it in high-tech, sleek panels that collect energy from the sun, while bringing 650 jobs to the Kern County area and 82MW of clean energy to the grid.
Like many states, California has a goal of increasing the amount of energy procured from renewable sources. This project helps support that quest and marks 17 renewable energy investments for Google since 2010, including five here in the Golden State.

We’re continually looking for newer, bigger and better projects that help us create a clean energy future. The more than $1.5 billion we’ve brought to these projects to date not only helps provide renewable energy to the grid and to the public, but as they perform, they allow us to invest in more renewable energy projects. This cycle makes financial sense for Google and our partners while supporting construction jobs in local communities and clean energy for the planet we share.

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Candlelight flickering on a stone wall covered in hieroglyphs. A proud queen brought low by the bite of a snake. Reeds rustling along a river, waiting to be turned into papyrus, or maybe a basket. The civilization of ancient Egypt stood for thousands of years and left behind a rich legacy of architecture, art, medicine, politics, culture and more. Today, it looms large in our imagination as the home of Cleopatra, Ptolemy, Tutankhamun, people who worshipped cats as gods and buried their embalmed dead in tombs filled with treasures and sustenance for the afterlife.

Now the Egypt of your imagination can be brought to life with new Street View imagery in Google Maps, and you can take a virtual walk among the stunning monuments and rich history of this ancient civilization.

Start where most tourists do: at the Pyramids of Giza, which rise from the vast expanse of the Sahara like man-made mountains. Just kilometers from the bustling, modern city of Cairo, the Pyramids have stood for nearly 5,000 years, a testament to the ingenuity and ambition of the ancient Egyptian people.

The Giza Necropolis is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, and is home to the last standing wonder of the ancient world: the Great Pyramid. Built as a tomb and a symbol of eternity for the Pharoah Khufu, it stands 139 meters high (the height of the world’s highest roller coaster!) and was the tallest man-made structure on Earth for 3,800 years. Look beyond it to the west, and you’ll see the pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure, built by Khufu's son and grandson.

Now turn east to the Great Sphinx, the oldest and largest known monumental sculpture in the world. With the body of a lion and the head of a human, it measures a grand 73 meters long and 20 meters high. Literally translating to “Father of Dread,” this mythical creature is believed to resemble Pharaoh Khafre, who was the ruler at the time of construction.

In addition to the Giza Necropolis, you can explore The Pyramid of Djoser, the ancient site of the world’s very first Pyramid designed by the great Egyptian Architect Imhotep in the ancient burial ground of Saqqara.

Other sites you can check out on your virtual tour include: Abu Mena, one of the oldest sites of Christianity in Egypt—the church, baptistry, basilicas and monasteries; the Hanging Church, one of the oldest Coptic Churches in the world; the Cairo Citadel, a medieval Islamic fortification and historic site; and the Citadel of Qaitbay, a 15th-century defensive fortress on the Mediterranean coast.

If wandering through the imagery of these historical sites has piqued your interest in Egyptology, head over to the Google Cultural Institute, where you can explore the treasures of ancient Egypt through a series of drawings, historic photographs and artifacts from the famed sites.

The Pyramids of Giza have survived nearly five millennia and are the planet’s oldest man-made wonder. Now their legacy—and the legacy of many other sites of ancient Egyptian culture—are preserved in a new way with panoramic and immersive Street View imagery. We hope you’ll take a moment to step back in time and explore what was once known as the Gift of the Nile.

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This week search had three weddings, one real-life funeral, another on social media (we’ll explain later) and a 20th anniversary. Sounds like a packed week to us!

Heaven is a funny place
“I want my funeral to be a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action ... I want Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents.” Those are words from the great comedian Joan Rivers, who passed away yesterday. People across the web commemorated Rivers’ almost 50-year career by reliving her best punchlines and jokes (she was pretty hard to top). Meanwhile, people worked themselves into a panic when rumors swirled that TV’s favorite Golden Girl, Betty White, had passed on as well. Thankfully, the Internet is no soothsayer and Betty is alive and kicking—despite what the trends say.

Tales from the endzone
People were eagerly searching for info about the NFL’s opening game last night between the Green Bay Packers and reigning champions the Seattle Seahawks. And if you were still frantically finalizing your roster for your fantasy football team this week, you were in good company. Searchers looked for the latest player stats to fine-tune their lineups and were doing so at higher rates than previous years. One player not on fantasy rosters but on fans’ minds was Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted by the NFL, as he was cut from the St. Louis Rams. He ended up finding a home on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, so we'll have to wait just a little bit longer for him to make history on the field.

She looks great in white (and on TV)
Search was singing “The Wedding March” this week as famous brides walked down the aisle—and up the trends charts. Angelina Jolie and her wedding dress went where no other woman (except Jennifer Aniston) had gone and tied the knot with Brad Pitt. And we’re guessing Jenny McCarthy’s got the right stuff since she and former New Kid on the Block singer Donnie Wahlberg decided to get hitched (may they hang tough for years to come). Finally, basketball star Dwayne Wade stepped away from the court and onto the altar to wed Gabrielle Union. Bethany Mota celebrated a different kind of milestone as she joined the cast of Dancing with the Stars, becoming the first YouTube star to ever be invited on the show. But not everyone had a happy ending in Hollywood. Hackers were able to break into the phones of several actresses, leaking their private photos to the world—and stirring a debate in mainstream culture about privacy and cloud security.

Oldie but a goodie
We now present to you a short interlude down memory lane. This week, the cast of the 1994 hit comedy, The Little Rascals, reunited to reshoot the movie’s iconic poster—we’re still trying to come to terms with the whole “20 year anniversary” thing. And if you grew up in the 90’s, you’re more than familiar with Zack Morris and his antics at Bayside High on the teen sitcom Saved by the Bell. But do you know what happened when the cameras were turned off? That’s what searchers were looking for when Lifetime’s new TV movie The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story aired this past Monday. The movie had a somewhat chilly reception on social media, with people tweeting their various issues with its portrayal.

Tip of the week
Summer may officially be over but that doesn’t mean the beach is closed. Just ask Google, “Where is the nearest beach?” to enjoy a little fun in the sun...because you know what they say, winter is coming!

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Earlier this year, we launched Android Wear, bringing Android to wearables. Since then, the first watches powered by Android Wear, the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live, have gone on sale, developers have already built thousands of apps enhanced for Wear, and great new watches are becoming available from more partners.

Our goal with Wear is to build technology that helps you connect with others and get stuff done. So often, technology can become something that gets in the way of everything else. But we want to build devices that you can use when you need and forget about when you don’t—technology that's built for your sake, rather than its own sake. Coming throughout the rest of this year, we're making some updates to Wear that will help you get even more out of your watch—and the rest of your life, too.

First, we're bringing offline music playback and GPS support to Android Wear. Go for a run or bike ride with your Android wearable and leave your phone at home. You’ll be able to listen to music stored on your watch via Bluetooth headphones. And if your watch includes a GPS sensor, you can track your distance and speed too.

The second update will enable downloadable watch faces, so you can customize the visual design of your watch's home screen to show the information you want to see most—like your calendar or fitness sensors. Developers will soon be working on watch faces, making them available on Google Play.

We’re also continuing to work with manufacturers to bring you even more watch options, with different shapes, styles and sensors.
  • The Moto 360, the first Android wearable with a round display, is now available for sale in the U.S.
  • The Asus Zen Watch, coming later this year, includes a bio sensor, so you can keep tabs on your fitness and relaxation levels throughout the day.
  • The LG G Watch R uses a circular display, includes a heart rate monitor, and will be available later this year.
  • Last, but not least, we’re happy to welcome Sony to the Android Wear family with the Sony SmartWatch 3. It uses a transflective display for easier readability in sunlight, includes a GPS sensor, and will be available later this year.
These watches, as well as those unveiled earlier this summer, will all get the new software updates described above as soon as they’re ready in the coming months. We're also working with our partners on even more improvements, which means your device will continue to get better, with updates provided directly to you.

Whether it's giving you directions, letting you stay in touch more easily or keeping track of your steps so you can stay fit, Wear is designed to help you out without getting in your way. With new features and many new devices to choose from, chances are there's a watch that's just right for you.

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Bring on the heart-pounding highs and the gut-wrenching lows; the crazy rituals and the bitter rivalries. Football season is back!

Whether you're a "12th Man" or wearing a cheesehead, chances are you’ll be watching the game with smartphone in hand. Eighty-four percent of us now watch TV while multi-tasking on other devices nearby. And today, the language of fan rivalries is a visual one. Just look at the resurgence of search interest for GIFs on Google Trends. Why say it in words when you can throw shade with a meme?
This year, there’s a way for mobile-clutching NFL fans to take their smack talk to the next level. Madden GIFERATOR is a new project created by our Art, Copy & Code team, in partnership with EA Sports and agencies Heat and Grow, to help launch EA Sports’ signature football game Madden NFL 15.
During every NFL game, the Madden GIFERATOR will create a live stream of memes using Madden NFL 15 video game footage (as GIFs), triggered by the action on the field. The GIFs will appear in real time on MaddenGIFERATOR.com, on social media, as well as in ads on popular sports and gaming related apps and sites across the the Google Display Network. For example, if Seattle’s Richard Sherman picks off Aaron Rodgers tonight, you might see a GIF of Sherman with the headline “Weren’t you supposed to catch that? Aawwwwwkward” in the stream, alongside a real-time update on the score and game clock.

You can also take control of the GIFERATOR and design your own GIFs, choosing the team, the player, the background and the headline, ready for sharing across the web.

The Madden GIFERATOR is the latest in our Art, Copy & Code series, where we partner with brands and their agencies to create useful and fun experiences, powered by Google technology. We wanted to tap into the growing trend for fans to comment on and interact with games from their phones—plus, we have a weakness for GIFs. The GIFERATOR fuses live NFL game data with a database of Madden images, players, backgrounds and headlines to create relevant memes on the fly.

So this season, when your team delivers those clutch plays, head over to MaddenGIFERATOR.com, choose the perfect image, customize it with your best smack talk, and send it to your fellow fans (if you want to be nice) or your rivals (if you’ve got a wicked streak). Here’s a little inspiration before tonight’s Seahawks vs. Packers standoff:

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The is the first of several posts taking you behind the scenes of how Google makes its Maps. Stay tuned to the Lat Long blog over the next few days for the rest of the series. —Ed.

When you head out your door, you’ve got directions in your pocket—whether you’re driving to your aunt’s place in the mountains, cycling to a new biergarten or taking the train downtown. For Google Maps to get you there, it needs to be a digital mirror of the real world. But the real world is always changing. So to make sure your map is an accurate reflection of your world, we started Ground Truth, a project that brings the freshest, most relevant information to Google Maps.

Today, we’ve reached our 50th Ground Truth country with the addition of five new countries: Taiwan, Malaysia, Poland, Romania, and the last regions of Russia. We’re also rolling out Google Map Maker and Report a Problem—our crowdsourcing map tools—to Taiwan, Russia and Malaysia, giving anyone in those locations the ability to share and contribute their local knowledge directly to Google Maps.

For these countries, that means clearer, more detailed depictions of points of interest like walking paths in parks or department labels in universities, a reworking of the road network with new street names and turn restrictions, and faster updates to the map. In the unique case of Poland and Romania, both of which have Map Maker communities that were instrumental in building the map from scratch, it also means providing more resources to bring the same level of map detail to all regions in these places.

Over the next week, we’re pulling back the curtain to show you how Ground Truth and Map Maker work together to build Google Maps. Much of the magic behind Maps comes from people—from the Googlers who spend hours perfecting every road in the world, to the users who come together to improve the quality of maps in their local communities. To build the map, we have to gather high-quality information; in the next post, we’ll show you what that process looks like—and show off a new mapping technology. Stay tuned to the Lat Long Blog for more on how Google Maps is made!

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Work is where you spend a lot of your time. So we’ve always believed that it should be meaningful—not a daily grind, done in isolation on an old desktop in a sea of cubicles. Even more, we believe that technology should make work better. It should make it easy not just to get things done, but to get things done with people who inspire you, at the times and in the places where you work best, and in a way that lets you make an impact, no matter what your job is, or what industry you’re in.

Ten years ago, we started bringing Google’s consumer technology—along with the features, controls and services businesses need—to work. We first brought search and then Gmail to businesses. Today we also offer the scale and reliability of Google’s infrastructure to developers with Google Maps and Google Cloud Platform, and have extended into hardware with Android and Chromebooks. Along the way we’ve invested in what matters to our customers and partners—security, transparency, compliance and customer support. And our team, the breadth of our offerings, and our commitment to business customers have all increased substantially.

Work today is very different from 10 years ago. Cloud computing, once a new idea, is abundantly available, and collaboration is possible across offices, cities, countries and continents. Ideas can go from prototype to development to launch in a matter of days. Working from a computer, tablet or phone is no longer just a trend—it’s a reality. And millions of companies, large and small, have turned to Google’s products to help them launch, build and transform their businesses, and help their employees work the way they live. In other words, work is already better than it used to be.

But technology for the workplace isn't just about a better way of doing business. It's about empowering anyone, whether they're a developer with an idea in their basement or a baker with a better cupcake or a company with thousands of employees, to have an impact. We never set out to create a traditional “enterprise” business—we wanted to create a new way of doing work. So the time has come for our name to catch up with our ambition. As of today, what was called Google Enterprise is now, simply, Google for Work. When we use the tools that make our lives easier—Google Apps, Maps, Search, Chrome, Android, Cloud Platform and more—work gets better. And that’s what we’re working on—the best of Google, now for work.