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Research at Google

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Google is full of smart people working on some of the most difficult problems in computer science today. Most people know about the research activities that back our major products, such as search algorithms, systems infrastructure, machine learning, and programming languages. Those are just the tip of the iceberg; Google has a tremendous number of exciting challenges that only arise through the vast amount of data and sheer scale of systems we build.

What we discover affects the world both through better Google products and services, and through dissemination of our findings by the broader academic research community.  We value each kind of impact, and often the most successful projects achieve both.

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Recent Popular Posts
About 13 weeks ago Lens Blur in the new Google Camera app
Posted by Carlos Hernández, Software Engineer

One of the biggest advantages of SLR cameras ( over camera phones is the ability to achieve shallow depth of field effects (also known as bokeh,, which makes the object of interest "pop" by bringing the foreground into focus and de-emphasizing the background. 

Achieving this optical effect has traditionally required a big lens and aperture, and therefore hasn’t been possible using the camera on your mobile phone or tablet. That all changes with Lens Blur, a new mode in the Google Camera app ( 

Lens Blur  replaces the need for a large optical system with computer vision algorithms and optimization techniques that are run entirely on the mobile device, simulating a larger lens and aperture in order to creating a 3D model of the world. 

To learn more about the algorithms and optimization that makes Lens Blu
About 12 weeks ago " this field, almost everything is already discovered, and all that remains is to fill a few unimportant holes."
-University of Munich Physics Professor Philipp von Jolly, 1878

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the 156th birthday of German physicist Max Planck, who in 1878 ignored his teacher’s words, quoted above, advising him against pursuing a career in Physics.

Planck continued on to originate the quantum theory with the Planck relation, describing how electromagnetic energy could be emitted only in quantized form E=hv, where h is Planck's constant ( and v is the frequency of radiation.

Considered to be the cornerstone of quantum mechanics, Planck’s work, and subsequent advances by others “to fill a few unimportant holes”, has made possible a wide variety of technology that benefits our daily lives, from transistors and personal computers to magnetic resonance imaging. 

What future technology do you see that might be a
About 6 weeks ago The principles [of Go] are more qualitative and mysterious than in chess, and depend more on judgment. So I think it will be even more difficult to programme a computer to play a reasonable game of Go than of chess.
-Mathematician I.J. Good, 1965 

Todays Google Doodle celebrates the 185th birthday of Honinbo Shusaku, a celebrated  player of the ancient Chinese board game Go ( Originating over 2500 years ago, Go is a strategic board game with simple rules played by over 40 million people worldwide. But did you know that this millennia old game also provides a focus for, and pushes the boundaries of, the latest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) research? 

While computer science has  a long tradition of developing systems that are able to play games against humans competitively, Go presents many unique challenges, which include that it is played on a board with 361 intersections and that the number of possible moves is very large. This is in contrast to chess, for e
About 5 weeks ago Thermal Touch: an augmented reality interface via body heat

Computer vision and augmented reality has the potential to change the way in which we interact with digital information. +metaio - Augmented Reality Solutions  is experimenting with Thermal Touch, a prototype that explores ways to interact with smartphones and laptops using the residual heat from a finger when a surface is touched.

Utilizing a thermal camera to detect the heat from a touch, along with a standard camera to determine the location of the object being touched, Thermal Touch could enable the use of a wide variety of surfaces as an interactive touch interface.

What potential applications do you see for this technology? 

About 3 weeks ago Sibyl: A System for Large Scale Machine Learning at Google

Last week, at the IEEE/IFIP International Conference on Dependable Systems and Networks (DSN,, Google Software Engineer +Tushar Chandra gave a keynote address outlining the systems aspects of Sibyl, a supervised machine learning system that is used for solving a variety of prediction challenges, such as YouTube video recommendations.

To learn how Sibyl is being used at Google to solve internet-scale problems while using reasonable resources, watch the video below.

About 11 weeks ago A Billion Words: Because today's language modeling standard should be higher
Posted by +Dave Orr, Product Manager, and +Ciprian Chelba, Research Scientist

Language is chock full of ambiguity, and it can turn up in surprising places. Many words are hard to tell apart without context: most Americans pronounce “ladder” and “latter” identically, for instance.

One key way computers use context is with language models ( These are used for predictive keyboards, but also speech recognition, machine translation, spelling correction, query suggestions, and so on.

We believe that the field could benefit from a large, standard set with benchmarks for easy comparison and experiments with new modeling techniques. To that end, we are releasing scripts that convert a set of public data into a language model consisting of over a billion words, with standardized training and test splits, described in an arXiv paper (  

Along with t
About 8 weeks ago Large-scale Video Classification with Convolutional Neural Networks

With the ubiquity of videos on the internet, the development of algorithms that can analyze, summarize, and classify their content is an active field of research. While Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs, are an effective class of models for understanding image content, their development and use for video classification has been limited by the lack of video datasets that match the scale and variety of existing image datasets.

With Large-scale Video Classification with Convolutional Neural Networks (, a paper to be presented at the 2014 Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference (, researchers from Google and Stanford University collaborate to study the performance of CNNs for large-scale video classification using Sports-1M, a new dataset consisting of ~1 million YouTube videos belonging to a taxonomy of 487 classes of sports. 

About 9 weeks ago Programming by Demonstration

Researchers from Switzerland's École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a way to transfer information from a human to a robot, enabling it to catch objects in thrown at it.

By manually guiding the robotic arm to catch objects, the system was able to learn by demonstration, and construct a mathematical model that allowed it to react on its own in real-time.

This opens a wide range of applications, where fast reaction time in unpredictable environments is necessary, such as catching or avoiding objects, or providing instructions to an automated vehicle to react rapidly to traffic conditions.

What potential do you see in this technology?

About 1 week ago Simple is better: An empirical evaluation of web form improvement guidelines

Despite the rapid evolution of the Internet, web forms, with their limited and unilateral way of interaction, remain one of the core barriers between users and website owners. Any kind of obstacle or difficulty in filling in online forms can lead to increased frustration by the user, resulting in drop-outs and information loss.

In 2010, a set of 20 guidelines to optimize web forms was published by researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland, including best practices aimed to improve web forms and reduce frustration, errors and drop-outs. 

To investigate the impact of applying these rules, we conducted a study and presented results at CHI 2014 ( with Designing usable web forms: empirical evaluation of web form improvement guidelines (

Head over to the Google Research Blog to learn more about the results of this study.

About 12 weeks ago GestKeyboard: Enabling Gesture-Based Interaction on Ordinary Physical Keyboard

Stroke gestures are intuitive and efficient but often require dedicated gesture-capable input hardware such as a touchscreen. But what if one could use an existing, unmodified physical keyboard for gesture input without the need for additional devices?

At #chi2014 , National University of Singapore PhD Candidate +Haimo Zhang and Google Research Scientist +Yang Li presented GestKeyboard, a novel technique for gesturing on an ordinary, unmodified physical keyboard. 

In the paper GestKeyboard: Enabling Gesture-Based Interaction on Ordinary Physical Keyboard (, Haimo and Yang detail an exploratory study for understanding the design space of gesturing on a physical keyboard, without interfering with the keyboard’s primary functionalities of text input and hotkey shortcuts.

Their study, which had participants type a plain text document then edit the text using gestures on