Take a look at this Easter Bunny

Friday, April 11, 2014 | 10:19 AM

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Albrecht Dürer's masterpiece the Hare is a favourite Easter image, and today it serves as a model for chocolate bunnies. The Google Cultural Institute is celebrating this season by today releasing a gigapixel image of the Hare. Gigapixel images contain billions of pixels, that’s around 1,000 times more detailed than your average digital camera.

Albrecht Dürer: Hare, 1502,
The watercolor painting is extremely light sensitive -- so much so that the museum who owns it, the Albertina in Austria, only can show it to the public every few years. From now on, thanks to the Internet, everyone can experience the magic of Dürer's technique at the most incredible level of detail at any time.

 Zoom to a detail on Google Art Project
Dürer painted the Hare in 1502, rendering the animal with an almost photographic accuracy that is extraordinary today as it was more than 500 years ago. It is the artist’s most famous study of nature and one of the finest in Western art. The hare’s fur spreads out in different directions and is spotted in light and dark patches. Dürer not only managed to create a detailed, almost scientific, study of the animal, but also used nuanced brushwork to paint the finest hairs of its coat, infusing the picture with warmth, light and life.

The animal’s watchful eyes, vibrating whiskers, and alert ears give the impression that the hare might hop out off the paper at any moment. An interesting detail to explore using the zoom feature is the the hare’s right eye which appears to reflect the interior of a room or form the shape of a cross. According to the Albertina curators, the image might be a reflection of the artist’s studio, or perhaps the Christian symbol of the cross which would lend religious significance to this image from nature. Take a look, and come up with your own ideas.

Visiting Marseille’s unbeaten tracks

Monday, April 7, 2014 | 7:00 PM

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Have you ever visited a city and wished that a local could share their insider secrets? Wouldn’t it be even better to be able to put on your headphones and listen to their advice while strolling? In France, together with Marseille radio journalist Julie de Muer, we’ve just launched a fascinating online experiment, called “Night Walk.”

Julie and several artists involved with local broadcaster Radio Grenouille created the project. Using her recording skills, Julie created “soundwalks”: audio tours that explain the history and hidden sights and sounds of the streets, with stories told by local inhabitants. Visitors just have to download a sound track and a Google Maps route from the Soundwalks website to travel in the steps of these unusual guides, through their stories and their sounds.

More than 40 soundwalks have been created and marked out on Google Maps. Since 2013, they have enabled more than 20,000 visitors to discover the southern French cities of Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, and Aubagne.

Creating the soundwalks has been quite a task. It has taken no less than four years of collective work exploring the cities, meeting new people, recording streets and sounds and putting together the interactive website.

Want to take a walk through the Marseille streets yourself? It's simple: follow an evening soundwalk around Marseille’s Cours Julien, with local musician Christophe Perruchi guiding you as you walk. See a graffiti artist at work. Listen to a jazz jam in one of the neighborhood’s bars, find the 35 “secrets” hidden in the neighborhood, discover a fire-eater or the city’s most surprising garage entrance…and enjoy!

Improving our data centre energy performance

Friday, April 4, 2014 | 4:43 PM

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At Google we’re obsessed with building energy efficient data centers. Our facilities use 50% less energy than most other data centers, and we’re pushing ourselves to become even more efficient.

As part of this effort, our main European data centres, in St. Ghislain, Belgium, Hamina, Finland, and Dublin, Ireland recently were added to our ISO 50001 certification. Much like the environmental and workforce safety management certifications, ISO 50001 ensures we have a strong energy policy, build a robust auditing program, continually monitor, assess, and respond to our energy efficiency results.

Google Data Centere in Finland
Last year, we became the first company in North America to obtain a multi-site ISO 50001 certification for that system, covering our corporate data center operations and six U.S. data centers.

Another green priority for us is energy. Over the past year, we have signed two major contracts to buy all the electricity generated by Swedish wind farms for 10 years. By entering into long-term agreements with wind farm developers over the past few years, we’ve been able to increase the amount of renewable energy we consume while helping enable the construction of new facilities. Once completed, the wind farms will provide Google’s Hamina, Finland, data center with additional renewable energy as the facility expands in coming years.

Overall, we're focused on reducing our energy use while serving the explosive growth of the Internet. Most data centers use just as much non-computing or “overhead” energy (like cooling and power conversion) as they do to power their servers. At Google we’ve reduced this overhead to only 12%. That way, most of the energy we use powers the machines directly serving Google searches and products. We will continually push toward doing more with less—serving more users while consuming less energy.

Bringing the Dutch constitution online

Thursday, April 3, 2014 | 5:01 PM

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Some documents are drilled deep into the fibre of country’s identity, but few citizens actually get to see the originals. In the Netherlands, the 1814 Constitution turned the country into a constitutional monarch and is considered to be the basis of the country’s modern government. Now, partnering with Dutch National Archive and the National Committee for the Kingdom's Bicentenary, we are making the original available to the public in a new Google Cultural Institute exhibition on the Bicentenary of the Dutch Constitution.

The Dutch constitution is only the latest part of our wide Constitute project, providing searchable access to 187 constitutions, ranging from the Afghanistan to Zambia. Tagged passages of each constitution with a topic — “right to privacy” or “equality regardless of gender” — allow users to find relevant excerpts on a particular subject. Want to view results for a specific region or time period? You can limit your search by country or by date using the buttons under the search bar.

The new Dutch exhibition marks the 200th anniversary of the Dutch Constitution, making it one of the oldest constitutions still in existence, second only to the American Constitution. The National Committee for the Kingdom's Bicentenary marked this exceptional and festive anniversary as the perfect occasion to organise its second national event, the Constitution Festival.

In addition to the Dutch Constitution, the exhibition includes eight other important documents, ranging from the 1839 Treaty of London separating the Netherlands and Belgium to the 1854 Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Boosting innovative government in an innovative country

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 | 5:22 PM

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Israel is known as the ‘start-up nation’. Its private sector is one of the world’s most innovative and Internet-savvy. We’ve recently signed an agreement with the Israeli government to encourage adoption of pro-innovation public policies, from opening up public data sets to curbing unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles. The initiative aims to find ways that the Internet can improve public services and help consumers.

As part of these initiatives, Internet developers and government officials will come together regularly at our Tel Aviv Campus. At the first meeting, the two sides examined how technology can help to reduce the high cost of living in Israel. Government officials explained that they are advancing a new law to open up public data on retail prices and called on developers to create price comparison apps.

Amit Lang, Director General of the Ministry of Economy, talking at “Meet the Gov” event at Campus Tel Aviv

Five local startups presented their services and insights. Feex uses crowdsourcing to reduce management fees on financial products such as pension funds. My Supermarket lets consumers choose the cheapest option to order groceries online. Eloan encourages peer to peer loans. Madlan helps home buyers by showing how much an apartment was sold for, the average cost per meter in each neighborhood. Noknok gives people free calls anywhere with the same number even abroad.

These sessions were inspired by a Google-finance study called E-nnovate Israel. Researchers conducted 100 interviews with leading figures in the public, business, non-profit and academic sectors and concluded that government and private business need to work more closely together in order to promote innovation and economic growth.

Israel’s country manager, Meir Brand and Minister of Finance, Yair Lapid, sign the agreement
We hope that future sessions will be just as informative and useful for both the technology entrepreneurs and for officials. Both sides share the same ultimate goal - to use technology to ease interactions with government and improve lives.

Launching a MOOC for data journalism

Friday, March 28, 2014 | 10:25 AM

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Mass open online education courses - MOOCS - are transforming education. We’re working with the European Journalism Centre to bring journalism education online, offering a free web data journalism course ‘Doing Journalism with Data: First Steps, Skills and Tools.’

More than 14,000 participants have signed up. The course will officially start on May 19, 2014. It is part of the European Journalism Centre’s Data Driven Journalism initiative, which aims to enable more journalists, editors, news developers and designers to make better use of data and incorporate it further into their work. Started in 2010, the initiative provides resources for journalists through DataDrivenJournalism.net, the School of Data Journalism, and the Data Journalism Handbook.

Participants in the new online course will learn the essential concepts and skills to work effectively with data and produce compelling stories under tight deadlines. The line-up of instructors and advisors hails from journalism schools and media outlets around the world. Listen to them introduce themselves below - and enroll in the course.


Bringing the Opéra to the Cultural Institute

Thursday, March 27, 2014 | 3:58 PM

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For the first time, the Google Cultural Institute has been given ‘access all areas’ to one of the world’s most famous Opera Houses: the Palais Garnier in Paris, the setting for The Phantom of the Opera.

Our indoor Street View images feature exquisite detail and allow anyone in the world to tour 11 floors (and 3.7km!) of the Palais Garnier. You can now experience virtually what it’s like to be on stage, backstage, in the rehearsal rooms, the costume room, a hidden lake or even on the roof of the Opéra building, overlooking Paris’ skyline!

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View from the stage (Mezzanine and Orchestra)

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View of the “Grand Foyer”

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View of the ground floor main staircase and “Grand Véstibule”

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View from the “4ème loges”

In our second installment from the Paris Opéra House, we bring you what we think might be the world's first multi-billion pixel image of a ceiling - it's certainly the first one to be captured by our team!

Marc Chagall’s masterpiece in the Opéra Garnier in Paris sits 18 meters above the auditorium seating, with specific light conditions and a concave shape, making it one of our biggest technical challenges to date.

In his riotously colourful modernist work, Chagall pays tribute to the composers Mozart, Wagner, Mussorgsky, Berlioz and Ravel, as well as to famous actors and dancers. And if you look carefully you might even be able to spot famous characters such as Carmen, or the discreet signature of the artist, 18 metres from the ground.

Finally, the Opéra has produced an online exhibition called Le Chemin des Etoiles, with portrait photos and information about more than 80 of its star dancers over the last 74 years.