Huge news (say that in your best Bernie Sanders voice) in Seattle. Google has plans to move its Fremont, California, office into a mixed-use four building campus in South Lake Union (SLU). The project was designed by Graphite Design Group with Runberg Architecture Group working as consultants on the residential portion. The property is on Mercer Street bounded by Fairview and Terry Avenues, south of the Museum of History and Industry, and east of the newly opened Allen Institute. The site, currently a surface parking lot, will eventually host four six-story buildings and two additional residential towers (each up to 9 stories tall). Google will move into all of the 607,000 square feet of office space for lease periods lasting 14 to 16 years. Also planned are 151 apartments, close to 14,000 square feet of retail space, and 780 parking spots. The design features large setbacks and is part of a $2.1 million woonerf (Dutch for a green street that prioritizes bicycle and foot traffic). Developer Vulcan Inc. (owned by Paul Allen) is working with Google on the project. It's an unusual move, as Vulcan tends to work with Amazon. Currently, there are about 900 Google employees in Seattle. The new office could hold up to 4,000 employees. Google also has an office in Kirkland with close to 1,000 employees working. “Vulcan will also contribute approximately $4.3 million in incentive zoning fees for affordable housing and daycare,” reported GeekWire. No word yet on the total cost of the project. Construction is planned in phases, with breaking ground slated for 2017, and an opening by 2019. There has been a flurry of tech development in South Lake Union over the past several years that some fear is homogenizing the neighborhood. Amazon is nearby and in Denny Triangle, Gehry is designing for Facebook, and now there'll be Google as well.
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If you can't make it to Frank Lloyd Wright's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, fear not: Google Street View has a solution. Though not quite as fulfilling as visiting in person, their self-guided virtual tour offers insight into the museum's iconic architecture while letting you view some of its exhibitions and artworks. This isn't the first time Google Street View's engineers have added masterpieces 0f art and architecture. In fact, as a member of the Google Cultural Institute, the Guggenheim is one of almost 750 museums and collections available to explore online. Google also offers walkthroughs of famous world wonders such as the Taj Mahal. With the Guggenheim museum, online tourists can view 120 pieces of artwork on display and travel up and down the building's famed spiral ramps. Attempting to keep the virtual tour as realistic as possible, Google only allows you to click one step forward at a time, though it's also possible to jump from floor to floor. Because of Wright's layout of the museum, it wasn't easy for Google to create its virtual walkthrough. Drones, tripods, and Street View “trolleys” captured a patchwork of images to create 360-degree views. The experience is best accessed via the Google Cultural Center (available here) rather than entering from Google Street View (as shown in the image). Selecting the latter leaves you stuck halfway up the Museum. Exhibitions from the Guggenheim Foundation currently available online are No Country: Contemporary Art For South and Southeast Asia and Storylines: Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim. For architecture enthusiasts, Google is exhibiting Photography and Modern Architecture in Brazil at its online cultural center, available here.
IBM Watson launches a “Siri for Cities” app as more tech companies clamor for smart cities where “things” can communicate and supply data
The IT industry is pushing relentlessly to institutionalize smart cities by installing internet-connected lampposts, digital signage, building facades, and more. IT research and advisory firm Gartner predicts that by 2020, 2.9 billion connected "things" will be in use in the consumer sector. IBM Watson jas joined the breakneck race with the launch of its “Siri for Cities,” a cognitive computing platform that enables users to ask complex questions about city services. By speaking into their smartphones, laptops or Apple Watches, residents can inquire about fire and police services to parking and waste collection. The app supplies responses by drawing upon a database of FAQs, but IBM has outfitted the technology to interact with the language of more in-depth questions, analyse swaths of data, and respond in a concise, evidence-based manner. The mobile app will be piloted in Surrey, Canada, to create a centralized hub for the city. Purple Forge, a digital agency hired by the local government, is working to integrate these capabilities into the pre-existing “My Surrey” app, which streams hyper-local news, events, job listings, bike routes, parking information, and more in real-time. “IBM Watson’s learning abilities are such that the technology builds its knowledge and improves as citizens use it, much in the same way humans learn,” said Bruce Hayne, chair of Surrey’s Innovation and Investment Committee. “This pilot is expected to enhance customer experience by increasing the accessibility of services while providing the city with insight into opportunities for improvement and reduction to service delivery costs.” Reliant on data and interactivity, IBM’s new gadgetry overlaps noticeably with Google’s recently launched Sidewalk Labs, an independent company that aims to develop and incubate new technology to address urban ills. After acquiring Titan and Control Group, Sidewalk Labs announced its first initiative: resuming the work of Link NYC to convert New York City’s unused phone booths into public WiFi hubs. According to the FCC, 55 million people in the United States lack broadband internet access. The WiFi hubs will be tall, thin pillars with digital tablet interfaces and large ads slapped on the sides to keep them free to use. Through Titan’s ad network, Link NYC could bring $500 million in ad revenue to the city over the next 12 years, the DeBlasio administration has predicted. Meanwhile, City Science researchers at MIT’s Media Lab are building mobility networks for “multi-modal transit.” One initiative is a search and recommendation engine for a variety of energy-saving transit modes, such as car-pooling and bike-sharing, determined by weather, traffic, and past user patterns. Researchers are angling for further energy cutbacks by designing and prototyping electric scooters, driverless cars, and compact bike-lane vehicles.
While Google is photographing your street, its cars will also be mapping the air city dwellers breathe
Will we call it Air View? Google is collaborating with San Francisco–based, pollution-tech start-up Aclima to begin assessing air quality in metropolitan areas across the United States. Cars Google uses to capture its popular Street Views have been equipped with Aclima's environmental sensors and will be able to detect pollutants such as Methane, Carbon Dioxide, and Black Carbon. https://youtu.be/Ggkab1lKj6g In a test drive back in August 2014, three Google cars equipped with these sensors collected 150 million data points after driving 750 hours around Denver. The study, conducted by NASA and the EPA, successfully mapped the change in outdoor air patterns and has confirmed the effectiveness of mobile sensing."We have a profound opportunity to understand how cities live and breathe in an entirely new way by integrating Aclima's mobile sensing platform with Google Maps and Street View cars," Aclima CEO and co-founder Davida Herzl said on the company's blog. The Aclima–Google Street View cars are said to be maneuvering around the Bay Area next. They will eventually branch out to other cities to collect data that could help create healthier cities for people to live in. In the future, Aclima hopes to make the data accessible to the public.
Google has awarded an endowment worth half a million dollars to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to build a “living lab” for the search engine giant’s Open Web of Things (OWT) expedition. OWT envisions a world in which access to networked technology is mediated through internet-connected buildings and everyday objects—beyond the screen of a smartphone or computer device.
“A future where we work seamlessly with connected systems, services, devices, and ‘things’ to support work practices, education and daily interactions.” -in a statement by Google’s Open Web of Things.Carnegie Mellon’s enviable task is to become a testing ground for the cheap, ubiquitous sensors, integrated apps, and user-developed tools which Google sees as the key to an integrated machine future. If that sounds like mystical marketing copy, a recent project by CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute sheds light on what a sensor-saturated “smart” city is capable of. The team headed by Anind K. Dey has created apps like Snap2It, which lets users connect to printers and other shared resources by taking photos of the device. Another application, Impromptu, offers relevant, temporary shared apps. For instance, if a sensor detects that you are waiting at a bus stop, you’ll likely be referred to a scheduling app. “The goal of our project will be nothing less than to radically enhance human-to-human and human-to-computer interaction through a large-scale deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT) that ensures privacy, accommodates new features over time, and enables people to readily design applications for their own use,” said Dey, lead investigator of the expedition and director of HCII. To create the living lab, the expedition will saturate the CMU campus with sensors and infrastructure, and recruit students and other campus members to create and use novel IoT apps. Dey plans on building tools that allow users to easily create their own IoT scripts. “An early milestone will include the development of our IoT app store, where any campus member and the larger research community will be able to develop and share an IoT script, action, multiple-sensor feed, or application easily and widely,” Dey said. “Because many novel IoT applications require a critical mass of sensors, CMU will use inexpensive sensors to add IoT capability to ‘dumb’ appliances and environments across the campus.” Researchers at CMU will work with Cornell, Stanford, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to develop the project, code-named GIoTTo. The premise is that embedded sensors in buildings and everyday objects can be interwoven to create “smart” environments controlled and experienced through interoperable technologies.
Called out by Greenpeace for lack of transparency, Amazon commits to building solar farm in Virginia to power its data centers
E-commerce giant Amazon is under fire from groups to catch up to its tree-hugging counterparts. To boost its "green" credentials, the company has announced the building of a new solar farm in coal-reliant Virginia to power its numerous data centers in the region. After scoring abysmally in a Greenpeace report that ranked big tech firms by renewable energy achievements and transparency, Amazon announced a partnership with Community Energy on June 10 to build an 80-megawatt solar farm in Virginia’s Eastern Shore in Accomack County. It will be the largest solar facility in the state to date. Greenpeace called out Amazon in May for not elaborating on its plans to achieve 100 percent renewable energy. “Amazon lags behind its competitors in using renewable energy for its cloud-based computer servers,” Todd Larsen, executive co-director of Green America, told EcoWatch. “Unlike most of its competitors, it fails to publish a corporate responsibility or sustainability reporting, and it fails to disclose its emissions and impacts to the Carbon Disclosure Project. We are calling on Amazon.com to take steps to be transparent about its emissions and to rapidly move to renewable energy.” In April, Amazon reported that 25 percent of its global infrastructure is powered by renewable energy. Its goal, by 2016, is to raise that figure to 40 percent. The Greenpeace report, Clicking Clean: Building a Green Internet, showed Amazon lagging far behind peers such as Google and Apple, the latter of which runs all of its data centers on renewables and earned a top score in the report. Amazon’s solar farm will deliver about 170,000 megawatt hours of electricity, enough to power 15,000 homes. While Greenpeace applauded Amazon on its prudent move, the environmental group estimates that the solar farm’s output would suffice to meet only a “single-digit percentage” of Amazon’s total energy demand in Virginia, according to Fast Company. The tech company’s data centers in that region are the lifeblood of its Amazon Web Services (AWS), used by some of the Internet’s biggest names including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Pinterest, and Tumblr. The energy demands for such large-scale cloud computing are understandably mammoth. Last January, Amazon announced that it would build a 150 megawatt wind farm in Benton County, Indiana, which has a higher capacity. Earlier this year, AWS customers including Tumblr, HuffPo, and Hootsuite wrote to Amazon asking it to be more transparent about its environmental reporting.
Streetlights and lampposts are good for more than finding your way home and singin' in the rain. Tech firms Cisco Systems and Sensity Networks plan to help Kansas City roll out smart lighting that can broadcast and share data with city agencies and private companies. "Cisco's and Sensity's intelligent lighting platform transforms each lighting fixture into a sensory node in a powerful, broadband wireless network, creating a light sensory network for municipalities,” reads a Cisco press release. As part of a planned public wifi network, the smart lights could potentially gather and share data about public safety, traffic, and even retail analytics, although the release doesn't detail any specific programs. Lux magazine put the announcement in context:
Other cities embarking on similar projects include Los Angeles, San Diego, Copenhagen, Glasgow and Bristol, England, among others. In Denmark, the Danish Outdoor Lighting Laboratory is testing many of the principles. Hamburg, Germany is using smart streetlighting to help it more efficiently run Europe's second largest port.Kansas City is no stranger to high-tech experiments. Google's pilot program for high-speed, fiber-optic broadband infrastructure kicked up the terms “fiberhood” and even “Silicon Prairie.”
Google and the University of Washington cook up new algorithm for turning your vacation snaps into time-lapse videos
Think twice before posting photos of your imaginary suntan online: Google could be sifting through your latest vacation snaps for an unforeseen ulterior motive. The search engine giant teamed up with researchers at the University of Washington to cull public photographs of iconic landmarks from the Internet and stitch them together in chronological order. The resulting time-lapse videos show glaciers shrinking, waterfalls ebbing and flowing, and skyscrapers rising as if made from matchsticks. While time-lapse photography normally requires a photographer to plant his equipment in one location for months or even years on end, the researchers developed an algorithm for creating their own time-lapses without leaving the lab. Given the deluge of near-identical photos of world-renowned landmarks being snapped and uploaded to the Internet every day, the team sorted through 86 million photographs of 120,000 landmarks taken from common photo angles. They ordered each photo by date, warping the subject to make it appear as if taken from the same viewpoint. The team’s custom-built algorithms helped automate the search process and altogether disguise the differing camera angles so as to be unnoticeable when viewed in sequence. This stabilization process also compensated for changes in light conditions to minimize flickering between frames. Of the 10,000 time-lapse sequences of 2,942 landmarks generated, the most powerful ones include the disconcerting decline of Norway’s Briksdalsbreen Glacier, the construction of New York’s Goldman Sachs tower, and the shifting sandbars off the coast of Thailand as the water changes color. Each time-lapse video is made from over 300 images. “Whereas before it took months or years to create one such time-lapse, [with our algorithms] we can now almost instantly create thousands of time-lapses covering the most popular places on earth,” Ricardo Martin Brualla, David Gallup, and Steven M. Seitz wrote in a paper documenting their work, which they dub "time-lapse mining". Posited as an alternative to seeing life through a “fixed temporal scale,” the researchers say time-lapse technology creates “a new paradigm for visualizing global change” and is just the tip of the melting, shifting, reconfiguring iceberg.
Google trumped (for once) by LinkedIn, leaving Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick swoopy plans in limbo
Mountain View, California's city council has decided that LinkedIn and not Google will be able to develop the majority of its North Bayshore area, leaving Google's ambitious plans by Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick in jeopardy. According to Silicon Valley Business Journal, LinkedIn will be able to develop 1.4 million square feet of the 2.2 million square feet of the area's available commercial space, leaving Google with enough room for only one piece of its four-part plan. “I’m not sure how I make any of this economically viable with one building,” David Radcliffe, vice president of real estate and workplace services for Google, told the council. Google's four structures were to be draped in glass canopies and connected by walking trails. plazas, community gardens and oak groves. Now they may face the same fate as Google's former plans for a new Leed Platinum campus in Mountain View's Charleston East area by Ingenhoven Architects and SHoP Architects, which were proposed in 2012 and 2008, respectively. According to public documents, LinkedIn's plans (left), designed by Studios Architecture (the firm that, ironically, designed the building that currently serves as Google's main headquarters) call for six office buildings, a new theater, health club, and a retail street. LinkedIn's rectilinear site plan is much more conventional than Google's looping, twisting, and intertwining complex would have been. Most of the office buildings would surround a public space called "The Green." According to the Business Journal, the decision does not approve LinkedIn’s project, rather "it merely gives the company the green light to turn in formal plans." So this saga isn't over yet.
In what appears to be an April Fools' prank launched a day early, Google has added an eight-bit video game, ahem, Easter Egg feature to Google Maps. While browsing around the city of your choice, look for the Pacman box in the lower left-hand corner right next to the aerial photography button. Click it, and you're transported into a dot-filled, ghost-infested city street grid in search of cherries. Take a look!
Just two days ago, AN brought you word that Copenhagen- and New York–based Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and London-based Heatherwick Studio were teaming up to design the new headquarters for Google in Mountain View, California. At the time, it was only being reported that the complex would comprise "a series of canopylike buildings.” Well, now we know what those canopylike buildings will look like and a whole lot more. The Silicon Valley Business Journal first reported on the project design, publishing dramatic renderings and details on how the architects came up with their groundbreaking scheme. "Google—along with a team of prominent architects—has spent more than a year rethinking every assumption about office buildings, tech campuses, and how they relate to their neighborhoods," reported the newspaper. "The result? Four futuristic structures where basic building elements — floors, ceilings and walls — attach or detach from permanent steel frames, forming whole new workspaces of different sizes. With help from small cranes and robots ("crabots"), interiors will transform in hours, rather than months." Hear that? Crabots! A spokesperson at BIG declined to comment further on the design. http://youtu.be/z3v4rIG8kQA These four structures will be draped in glass canopies and are scaled as entire city blocks. The overall campus would also reportedly "see wide swaths of land returned to nature, criss-crossed by walking trails and dotted by plazas, community gardens and oak groves." There would even be a walking path that cuts through a building "letting outsiders inside the Google hive." Joining BIG and Heatherwick on this massive project is the San Francisco–based CMG Landscape Architecture, which is working with Gehry on the Facebook campus. "Today we’re submitting a plan to redevelop four sites—places where we already have offices but hope to significantly increase our square footage—to the Mountain View City Council," David Radcliffe, Google's Real Estate VP writes. "It’s the first time we'll design and build offices from scratch and we hope these plans by Bjarke Ingels at BIG and Thomas Heatherwick at Heatherwick Studio will lead to a better way of working." Google further unveiled the project on its blog this morning, revealing the video above. "The idea is simple. Instead of constructing immoveable concrete buildings, we’ll create lightweight block-like structures which can be moved around easily as we invest in new product areas," Radcliffe said on the blog. The project totals 3.4 million square feet and includes four sites. Google reportedly wants to have the first of these sites, known as "The Landing," completed by 2020. But before construction can start, the city must approve Google's hugely ambitious plans.
Presumably not wanting to be outdone by Facebook and its Frank Gehry–designed digs or Apple and its Norman Foster–designed doughnut, Google has tapped two architectural big hitters for its new Mountain View, California headquarters. According to the New York Times, the company is expected to announce that the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Heatherwick Studio are behind the yet-to-be-seen design, which given the two firms' portfolios, should be pretty dramatic. But all we know at this point is that the headquarters will be comprised of "a series of canopylike buildings." No matter what the building—or buildings—looks like, it will likely get some pushback from the community which feels that Google is overextending its footprint in Mountain View. "When Google moved here in 1999," wrote the Times, "it had a dozen employees and a search engine known only to computer aficionados. Now, its 20,000 local employees make it the biggest employer in a city that is bursting at the seams." Two of the most pressing issues that Google and the city will have to hash out moving forward are housing and traffic.