Google Inbox was the Gmail we desperately needed — but now it’s dead
Author: Jackson Ryan
Date Written: Apr 2, 2019 at 10:10 PM
Date Saved: 4/3/19, 8:46 AM
Google Inbox, the much-loved, experimental email client that launched in 2014, is officially dead. And I am officially heartbroken.
I knew this was going to happen. We all did. It still hurts.
Google announced that Inbox’s time was up on Sept. 12, 2018, writing in a blog post the company was shutting it down and “planning to focus solely on Gmail.” Over the past two weeks, incessant warnings have popped up on the desktop and across my phone screen whenever I opened the app.
“This app will be going away in 5 days” it would tell me like a passive-aggressive Doomsday Clock. Each time, it would ask me to switch to Gmail and I’d wave it away with a push: “Not now.”
But it’s all over. This morning, I got this message:
Screenshot by Jackson Ryan/CNET via Google
Gmail was unleashed on the world 15 years ago on April 1 and is now used by around 1.5 billion people every day. It allowed the search engine provider to reach lofty new heights, giving it the confidence to take over the world. When it rolled into town in 2004, it slowly began swallowing up every email client in its path.
AOL Mail? More like LOL Mail. Hotmail? More like… cold mail. Yahoo? Bye.
Slowly we all became engulfed by the email version of The Blob. Email became monotonous, slinking into the shadows, filling up with spam and social media blasts. It gradually became normal. It became boring.
Then in 2014, Google announced Inbox and email was Great Again. It Marie Kondo’d my online life before I even knew who Marie Kondo was. When Sarah Mitroff reviewed Inbox in October 2014, she laid all manner of compliments on the app: “Visually appealing”, “equal parts colorful, clean and cheerful” and “fresh”. Gmail felt like a harsh, sterile hospital next to Inbox’s bright, buoyant Happy-Time-Fun-Land.
Now Inbox is dead, Google has said it will be bringing some of the service’s most popular features over to Gmail. As I’ve finally been forced to switch over, there’s a hole in my heart. Gmail still lacks many of the features that made Inbox so powerful — and so beloved.
There’s work to do to make email Great Again, Again. What can Gmail do to ease the pain?
(, but let’s pretend we can answer that question anyway.)
Bundle of joy
When you read about Inbox’s premature demise, you will no doubt read plenty about “bundles”. Inbox’s clever bundling system was the best thing to ever happen to me, a nearly 30-year-old unmarried man with zero children in a stable, loving relationship.
Inbox had that galaxy-brain energy. The real BDE. Supported by Google’s powerful algorithms, Inbox was able to sort your life out for you. It saw what was dropping in your Inbox and automatically filed it away in its own category via the voodoo magic of machine learning.
It was powerful for bundling all your receipts, purchases, holidays and business trips, placing all that information in easy-to-navigate, simple-to-find locations. I never even had to think about manually labeling or filing emails with Inbox — it just worked, from Day One. And it continued to work until it was dead.
Finding details about a trip home took seconds in Inbox, a one-click process that returned my booking, accommodation, the car I’d hired and any tours I’d booked while I was away. In Gmail, I have to sift through a torrent of banking statements, receipts, a regretful order I made for Thai food when I was sloshed three nights ago and a random PR email about their genius April Fools’ Day stunt.
There have been rumblings that Google will also be bringing bundles across to Gmail, though a timeline for that update is currently unknown so, thanks, big G — my life is now a living hell.
This is how you remind me
Besides bundles, Inbox quickly became the place where I started my day because it centralized my to-do list.
Email is, essentially, just a place where tasks get filed and Inbox’s “Reminders” feature was critical to this. In the same way you would compose an email, you could set yourself a reminder that would jump to the top of your Inbox. At the end of a busy day, I’d whip a few little reminders in for the following morning.
And sure, I can do this with Gmail’s “Tasks” integration but this opens an entirely new window on the side of my desktop. That’s a game of hide-and-seek that I don’t want to play. Because reminders were able to be pinned or snoozed, they were unobtrusive, nesting neatly within the inbox like a digital post-it note.
I don’t know why Gmail doesn’t have reminders. I can’t tell you why. They exist in other G suite services, like Calendar and Keep, but not in Gmail.
Inbox is like the Carly Rae Jepsen of email. It swept in and took the world by surprise with its spark and smarts and brightness and now, every waking moment without it is torture. Gmail, in contrast, is the Nickelback of modern email clients. It’s the homogenized radio-rock version of email.
In fact, maybe it’s worse. Maybe it’s Smash Mouth.
Attention spans are being obliterated by the internet and my apartment is a disorganized mess.
I mean, it’s tidy — but there’s no rhyme or reason to how I file away important tax documents, receipts or mementos. Invoking the holy name of Kondo, I tried to improve my systems a month ago. That amounted to buying more boxes and storing more things in those boxes.
I couldn’t organize myself in the real world, but with the power of machine learning and AI, Google Inbox made sure I could do it when I was inside the internet.
And I wasn’t alone.
Search for Google Inbox on Twitter and you’ll find tales of woe and misery. You’ll find users decrying the switch to Gmail. You’ll find them celebrating the life of an email service as if it were their own flesh and blood. Like the untimely deaths at Game of Thrones’ Red Wedding, we’re all watching on in horror at the injustice.
No one is celebrating. Everybody’s mourning.
New world order
But it’s all over.
Inbox was so good because it was so easy. It was . It was . It bundled emails together long before Gmail was doing anything of the sort. It felt like it was made for me and only me. I didn’t have to spend mornings sifting through mountains of internet text. I could get what I needed and get on with life.
It was also a calming, soft blue rather than an alarming, CHECK-YOUR-EMAIL-NOW red. That’s a fact that gets lost in this funeral. Even the logo is an open letter with a positive, life-affirming tick, rather than the closed, menacing red “M” made famous in Gmail.
I could go on and on, but I digress.
Google has slowly integrated some of Inbox’s best features into Gmail. Snoozing emails, smart replies and nudges to remind you to follow up on your to-do list were all pioneered in Inbox. On Gmail’s 15th birthday, it even brought in a host of new features, like enabling emails to be scheduled and sent at a later time and improving its Smart Compose feature, which offers suggestions to make writing email a lot faster.
I’m holding on as long as possible. The mobile version of Inbox is now six feet under, taking its place in the Google Graveyard next to Reader, Hangouts, Google Plus and Allo, but the desktop version of Inbox lives on (at least, for now). Inbox clones are popping up, aiming to make the transition period easier, but its fate is sealed.
I can do without Hangouts or Plus. Somehow, I even survived after the transition away from Reader.
But this one really stings.
Google Home tips and tricks – Here are the best features of this Amazon Echo rival
Author: Joseph Carey
Date Written: Mar 23, 2019 at 5:00 PM
Date Saved: 3/24/19, 11:11 PM
All models of the Google Home are incredibly capable thanks to their vast array of features
Google Home is available in three models; the standard Google Home, the Google Home Mini and Google Home Max.
Back in October, the Mountain View firm also debuted its first smart display, dubbed the Google Home Hub.
The Home Hub has the same Assistant functionality as the other Home speakers but adds a screen that can display contextual information.
All models of the Google Home are incredibly capable thanks to their vast array of features.
Here is Express.co.uk’s compiled list of the best you can take advantage of right now.
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At CES in January Google announced an “interpreter mode” for its Home line of devices.
Once enabled, the feature will translate any speech from one language into another.
If the tool is harnesses on Google Home speakers, audio will provide the translation.
However, if a smart display such as the Google Home Hub is used, the translation will also appear on the product’s screen.
Discussing the feature, Google said: “Speaking a different language no longer has to be a barrier to having a good conversation.
“With Interpreter Mode, a new feature rolling out over the next few weeks on Google Home devices and Smart Displays, you can ask the Google Assistant to help you have a conversation in dozens of languages.
“Just say ‘Hey Google, be my French interpreter’ to start Interpreter Mode and get real-time spoken and (on Smart Displays) written translation to aid the conversation.
“We see this technology expanding to more places—it could help you check in at a foreign hotel or help you understand the bus schedule.”
The Google Home can remember for you
Google Home’s reminder functionality is incredibly useful and can be harnessed in more ways than you might think.
For instance, if you are someone who frequently forgets where things are placed, the smart speaker can help.
If an owner places their phone in their living room drawer, they can say “okay Google, my phone is in the living room drawer”.
That means if the user then forgets where they placed their phone they can say “okay Google, where’s my phone?” and it will respond with the last noted location.
One of the most tedious parts about using the Google Home is the fact the user previously had to repeat phrases such as “okay Google” in order to continue a conversation with the Assistant or ask it added questions.
However, a new feature dubbed Continued Conversations recently arrived for UK owners and allows the user to ask follow-up questions instantly.
Essentially, once the feature has been enabled the Google Assistant will continue listening after it has answered a question in case the user wants further clarification on the matter or to discuss something else entirely.
Continued Conversations can be turned on using the Google Home app.
Dedicated feature to find your phone
For those that want a little help finding their phone, the Google Home is able to make your device ring to make it easier to recover.
To harness the tool, users will need to make sure they have signed in on the same Google account on both their Google Home device and smartphone.
It is worth noting your handset will need to be connected to either a mobile network or Wi-Fi in order for the feature to work.
Google Home is able to provide owners with word definitions, meaning there is no need to pull out your phone or a dictionary.
Additionally, the smart speaker also has a feature that will give users a new word every day in an attempt to bolster their vocabulary.
Google Home games
Google Home is able to provide users with entertainment in the form of games and jokes.
If users load the Google Home app they are able to see a full list of the games on offer.
These range from quizzes to trivia.
Google Home can gain increased functionality thanks to a cavalcade of Assistant apps that are available for users to download.
Owners are able to see a full list of programmes on offer by going to assistant.google.com/explore or via the Google Home app.
If fans are using the latter, they can find them by summoning the side menu present.
After it has emerged, press explore and a search bar will appear where apps can be located.
Assistant apps range from games to those concerned with providing added smart home control.
February 04 2019
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Let’s Talk Tips for Saturday, December 1st 2018 – Volume 3
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This month in Let’s Talk Tips:
1.) VR Roller Skates
Do you want to really, physically walk around in virtual reality? Is an omnidirectional treadmill too bulky for your taste? A giant hamster ball too confining? Redirected walking too trippy? An empty warehouse too expensive? If so, we’ve got good news: Google is trying to patent a design for VR roller skates.
2.) Your Time on Facebook
Fifteen weeks after Facebook announced its “Your Time on Facebook” tool that counts how many minutes you spend on the app, the feature is finally rolling out around the world. Designed to help you manage your social networking, the dashboard reveals how many minutes you’ve spent on Facebook’s app on that device each day for the past week and on average.
LinkedIn has cut off email address exports with a new privacy setting. A win for privacy on LinkedIn could be a big loss for businesses, recruiters and anyone else expecting to be able to export the email addresses of their connections. LinkedIn just quietly introduced a new privacy setting that defaults to blocking other users from exporting your email address.
4.) How to Get Air Quality Info on iPhone with Weather
The iPhone Weather app can offer information about the air quality at specific locations, including an Air Quality summary and an Air Quality Index score rating.
5.) Emoji8: Microsoft App Rates Your Expressions Against Emojis
Microsoft has launched a free Windows app that uses machine learning to guess the facial expression you’re making when imitating an emoji. Called Emoji8, the app gives you a score for how well you recreate the emoji, and it’s mostly meant to show off the capabilities of this brand of artificial intelligence in an accessible way.
1.) Do You Like It Hot?
Weight loss is a topic which comes with a wealth of different kinds of advice. When choosing a diet plan, it really comes down to which type works the best for your body and lifestyle – but if you’re looking to slim down quickly, incorporating this type of food could mean you see results sooner.
2.) Diwali Weight Loss Tips
Six smart ways to prevent belly fat and look gorgeous during the festive season.
3.) What Do Marathon Runners Really Eat?
The winner of last year’s New York City Marathon, Shalane Flanagan, will be running again in 2018. Here’s how she fuels up for a race.
4.) 7 Healthy Eating Tips To Fuel Your Workout
Have you ever laced up your running shoes only to realize you’re hungry? What do you grab to eat – if anything? Your body needs fuel to exercise, but not all foods will benefit you. Try these healthy eating tips to help you power through your workouts.
5.) Is It True You Don’t Have To Train Like An Athlete To Stay Fit?
You might think losing weight is all about hard work at the gym and following a strict diet. Exercise is clearly good for our bodies – but you don’t have to train like an athlete to stay fit. Sometimes, even the smallest amount of effort can deliver major pay-offs.
1.) Apple’s New Holiday Ad Is Absolutely Heartwarming
Apple’s holiday commercials are an annual tradition, designed to evoke the strongest of emotions in those who watch the lengthy ads play out. This year’s commercial manages to accomplish that feat, but it looks a little different: it’s fully animated.
2.) LinkedIn Looks To Be Testing Reactions and Stories
LinkedIn looks to be testing its own versions of Reactions and Stories. Although these tests have not yet been confirmed by LinkedIn, they have been spotted in some form of testing. That means they could be for real, or they could be a limited test – meaning, basically, that they might never see the light of day.
3.) Switch Between Two Different Twitter Timelines
What’s it going to be for you, ‘top tweets’ or the new reverse chronological order timeline? After teasing us with the news last month, Twitter is finally giving users the ability to choose.
4.) TikTok Surges Past 6M Downloads in the US
TikTok is one of the world’s most popular apps, recently surpassing 6 million users last month in the US and landing in the top spot on Apple’s App Store in the United States. Now, more celebrities are joining the app, which allows people to upload their own videos using a variety of editing tools and filters. Jimmy Fallon and Tony Hawk have both recently joined, using the app to participate in current trends and try to connect with a larger audience.
5.) Google Employee Challenges The Wording of Google’s Internal Process for Granting Disability Accommodation And Wins
When Google changed the wording of its internal process for granting disability accommodation late last week, employee Cathy Fitzpatrick took it as proof that you can effect change by speaking out.
1.) The Kids Are Coming. Winning The Generation Game
Home care providers are failing to effectively engage with intergenerational markets, an industry conference has heard.
2.) Website Security Tips for Marketers
Today we are going to discuss some practical security tips that marketers can put into practice.
3.) Bucking the Geezer Stereotype
The concept of developing one’s personal brand to stand out and succeed in the marketplace is a recent phenomenon that classic baby boomers often find repugnant. Shouldn’t doing your job well all these years be enough?
4.) 8 Tips To Protect Your Small Business Against Cybercrime
The forecast is bleak for companies of any size. This is particularly true for small businesses that often don’t have enough IT security and protection to diminish or block the attacks.
5.) Current Cyber Security Tips To Ensure Your Business Is Safe
Cyber security is a huge threat to people and businesses all over the world, especially in the USA. With that in mind, this article touches on a few different cyber security tips to make sure your business and yourself stay safe and avoid potential disaster.
1.) People With Disabilities Face Significant Barriers in Education System
Ontario’s education system needs to modernize its approach to supporting disabled students at every age level and do more to eliminate persistent barriers they face in school, the province’s human rights commission said in a statement.
2.) Blind Marylanders Sue Walmart, Saying Self-Serve Checkouts Violate ADA
Three blind Maryland residents and the National Federation of the Blind are suing Walmart, alleging that the company violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because its self-checkout kiosks are not fully accessible to blind customers.
3.) Wegmans Adds a ‘Game-Changer’ for Visually Impaired Shopping (Video)
Grocery shopping can very stressful. Navigating crowded aisles in a store full of people is frustrating, but if you’re blind, like Kim Charlson, then grocery shopping can be almost impossible. A new tool, however, could revolutionize shopping for people who can’t see. It’s an app that helps the visually impaired navigate the world and does it using the eyes in your smartphone.
4.) Losing Touch. Finding Intimacy
I had come to believe I was unable to break through my physical disability. I was wrong.
5.) What Does Blind Have To Do With It?
The Right to Parent from a Sighted Daughter’s Perspective.
The Let’s Talk Tips Newsletter is an Author Donna Jodhan Publication. Author Donna Jodhan is a blind author, advocate, blogger, podcast commentator, and accessibility specialist. The Let’s Talk Tips Newsletter is your monthly resource for the most current and reliable informational tips available in the areas of Technology, Nutrition, Media, Business, and Advocacy. The Let’s Talk Tips Newsletter is sent out by email and Facebook on the 1st Monday of every month at 6:00 AM EST.
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I live with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. Here’s which one you should pick
By Geoffrey A. Fowler The Washington Post
Wed., Nov. 21, 2018
Sure, you could chose a smart speaker based on sound or price. The go-to gadget gift of the season is available from Amazon, Apple and Google with better acoustics, new touch screens and deep holiday discounts.
But you’re not just buying a talking jukebox. Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant also want to adjust the thermostat, fill your picture frame or even microwave your popcorn. Each artificial intelligence assistant has its own ways of running a home. You’re choosing which tribe is yours.
The Consumer Technology Association says one in 10 Americans plan to buy a smart speaker this year. (Tyler Lizenby/CNET / TNS)
I call it a tribe because each has a distinct culture — and demands loyalty. This decision will shape how you get information, what appliances you purchase, where you shop and how you protect your privacy. One in 10 Americans plan to buy a smart speaker this year, according to the Consumer Technology Association. And Amazon says its Echo Dot is the bestselling speaker, ever.
The last time we had to choose a tech tribe like this was when smartphones arrived. Did you go iPhone, Android, or cling to a BlackBerry? A decade later, it’s increasingly hard to fathom switching between iPhone and Android. (A recent Match.com survey found iPhone and Android people don’t even like dating one another.)
Now imagine how hard it will be to change when you’ve literally wired stuff into your walls.
Article Continued Below
In my test lab — I mean, living room — an Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod sit side by side, and the voice AIs battle it out to run my home like genies in high-tech bottles. Here’s the shorthand I’ve learned: Alexa is for accessibility. Google Assistant is for brainpower. And Siri is for security.
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Amazon’s aggressive expansion makes Alexa the one I recommend, and use, the most. Google’s Assistant is coming from behind, matching feature by feature — and Siri, the original voice assistant, feels held back by Apple’s focus on privacy and its software shortcomings. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, but I review all tech with the same critical eye.)
Smart speakers are building the smart home that you never knew you needed. Inside the audio equipment, they’re home hub computers that work alongside smartphone apps to connect and control disparate devices and services. Now with a speaker and the right connected gizmo, you can walk into a room and turn on the lights without touching a button. Or control the TV without a remote. Amazon even sells an Alexa-operated microwave that cooks, tracks and reorders popcorn.
Click to expand
Article Continued Below
But home assistants can also be Trojan horses for a specific set of devices and services that favour one company over another.
My buddy Matt recently asked me to help him pick speakers and appliances for a big remodel. He loves the Google Assistant on his Android phone, so selecting his tribe should be easy, right? Hardly: He wanted to put Sonos speakers all around the house, but they take voice commands directly via Alexa. (Sonos says Google Assistant support is coming, though it’s been promising that for a year.)
Figuring out which connected doodads are compatible can be like solving a 10,000-piece puzzle. The best smart home gadgets (like Lutron Caseta and Philips Hue lights) work across all three tribes, but sometimes alliances and technical concerns make appliance makers take sides.
Each AI has its limitations. They’re not all equally skilled at understanding accents — Southerners are misunderstood more with Google and Midwesterners with Alexa. The price of ownership with some is letting a company surveil what goes on in your house. You can try, like me, to live with more than one, but you’re left with a patchwork that won’t win you any favours with family.
How do you find your AI tribe? Here’s how I differentiate them.
Supported smart home devices: Over 20,000.
Who loves it: Families who buy lots through Amazon and experiment with new gizmos.
The good: Alexa knows how to operate the most stuff, thanks to Amazon’s superior deal making. The only connected things it can’t run in my house are the app-operated garage door and some facets of my TV. Amazon also has been successful at spawning new connected gadgets: Alexa’s voice and microphone are built into more than 100 non-Amazon devices. And Amazon recently announced plans to offer appliance makers a chip that lets Alexa users voice command inexpensive everyday things, from wall plugs to fans.
Alexa has also mastered some of the little details of home life. It will confirm a request to turn off the lights without repeating your command — super helpful when someone nearby is napping.
The bad: Alexa grows smarter by the week, but it can be a stickler about using specific syntax. It also has the weakest relationship with your phone, the most important piece of technology for most people today. Amazon has bolstered a companion Alexa app for phones, making it better for communicating and setting up smart home routines, but I still find it the most confusing of the lot.
Amazon doesn’t always show the highest concern for our privacy. This spring, when Alexa inadvertently recorded a family’s private conversations and sent it to a contact, Amazon’s response boiled down to ‘whoopie.’ And it records and keeps every conversation you have with the AI — including every bag of popcorn it microwaves. (Amazon says it doesn’t use our queries to sell us stuff beyond making recommendations based on song and product searches).
Some love Alexa’s ability to order products by voice. But as long as Alexa runs your house, you’ll always be stuck buying those goods from Amazon. (That microwave will only ever order popcorn from Amazon.) The coming generation of appliances built with the Alexa chip inside could similarly trap you forever into Amazon-land.
Supported smart home devices: Over 10,000.
Who loves it: People who are deep into Google’s services.
The good: Google Assistant comes the closest to having a conversation with an actual human helper. You don’t have to use exact language to make things happen or get useful answers. Its intelligence can also be delightfully personal: It’s pretty good at differentiating the voices of family members. And on the new Home Hub device with a screen, Assistant curates a highlights-only show from your Google Photos collection.
While Android phone owners are more likely to use lots of Assistant-friendly Google services, the Assistant doesn’t particularly care what kind of phone you use — its simple companion apps work on iOS and Android.
And Google is neck and neck with Alexa on many of the nuances: Night mode reduces the volume of answers at night, and it can even require Junior to say “pretty please.”
The bad: As a relative newcomer to the smart home, Google has been catching up fast. But in my house, it still can’t fully control my Ring doorbell or send music to my Sonos speakers. And I’m not convinced that Google has Amazon’s negotiating sway, or the influence to bring the next generation of connected things online.
The bigger problem is privacy. Google’s endgame is always getting you to spend more time with its services, so it can gather more data to target ads at you. Like Alexa, Google Assistant keeps a recording of all your queries — every time you ask it to turn off the lights. Google treats this kind of like your Web search history, and uses it to target ads elsewhere. (Thankfully, It still keeps data from its Nest thermostat and home security division separate.) The potential upside is that when Google discovers your habits in all that data, it might be able to better automate your home — like what time all the lights should be off.
Supported smart home devices: Hundreds.
Who loves it: Privacy buffs and all-Apple households.
The good: Apple means business on security and privacy. Any device that wants to connect to HomeKit, its smart home software that works with Siri on the HomePod and iPhone, requires special encryption.
What’s more, your data is not attached to a personal profile, which aside from protecting your privacy also means that Apple is not using your home activity to sell or advertise things. (While other smart speakers keep recordings and transcriptions of what you say, Siri controls devices by making a request to its system through a random identifier, which cannot be tied to specific user.)
And Apple is pretty good at keeping the smart home simple. Setting up a smart home device is mostly just scanning a special code. Even creating routines, in which multiple accessories work in combination with a single command, is easier in the Siri’s companion Home app than with competitors.
The bad: You have to live in an all-Apple device world to reap these benefits. Siri’s a pretty good DJ, but only if you subscribe to Apple Music. You’re stuck with the HomePod as the one-size-fits-all smart speaker, and Siri still isn’t as competent as her AI competitors.
And Apple’s security-first approach has kept too many appliance makers from joining its ecosystem. Sure, it’s quality not quantity, but Siri still can’t interact with my Nest thermostat or Ring doorbell, just to name two. Apple did recently loosen up a tad: starting with Belkin Wemo’s Mini Smart Plug and Dimmer, it no longer requires special hardware for authentication — that can now happen via software. The move should make it simpler to make new products Siri compatible, and allow it access to existing ones.
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Very interesting article on an email list I am on. With google behind access tech, who knows what will develop. I am especially interested in what the Perkins school will develop with their money.
Google.org’s Giving $20 Million to Engineer a Better World for the Disabled
Damien Maloney for WIRED
Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, has been making a big global push this year to aid the one billion people around the world living with disabilities. To further that goal, it’s just awarded $20 million to the 30 nonprofitsit believes could benefit most from its tech and data-driven approach to charitable giving. From open source electric wheelchairs to multi-lingual keyboards you can control with eye-tracking technology, the chosen projects focus on solutions for disabled people in five main categories: education, communication, mobility, independence, and employment.
For Dot-org, as Googlers call it, this is a big moment. Google.org has revealed some awardees and partial grant amounts for its first-ever Global Impact Challenge in the past few months. But today it’s announced its full lineup, including 17 new nonprofits. Dot-org gave six of the 30 grantees more than $1 million to spend on advancing their causes. And the average grant size promised to these nonprofits, Dot-org says, is $750,000. According to the philanthropic organization, the final roster of grantees reach over 50 countries with their projects.
“We want to use our global voice to try and spread these innovations to more people,” says Brigitte Hoyer Gosselink, project lead for Google’s global impact challenge. “We also have scale in mind in funding these projects. We’re really looking for ways that these organizations can put this innovation out into the universe.”
The range of nonprofits reflects the breadth of Google.org’s ambitions: One of the grantees is the Center for Discovery, which is developing an open source power add-on that converts any manual wheelchair into a powered one that gives people more automatic steering options and better mobility. Another pick is the Perkins School for the Blind, which is working on tech that goes beyond GPS to give people with visual impairments more visibility into their immediate surroundings-helping them pick out bus stops, for instance, or building entrances. Dot-org also chose Click2Speak, a nonprofit that’s developing an on-screen, multi-lingual keyboard that includes support for input devices such as switches, joysticks, or eye-tracking devices, aimed at users with impaired motor skills.
Of course, Dot-org’s announcement isn’t the first, or even the biggest, pledge in the history of tech philanthropy. (That distinction goes to Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, who pledged 99 percent of their Facebook fortune-$45 billion-to philanthropic causes.) But this year’s Global Impact Challenge portfolio is typical of Google’s unique way of giving. Google is all about approaching poverty and inequality as an engineering problem, and one of its goals is to democratize tech access for those in need in new and innovative ways. Improving life for people with disabilities gives Google.org a unique challenge to solve with its tech expertise.
Giving, the Google Way
Tech is no stranger to philanthropy. Generations of tech moguls, from Bill Gatesto Pierre Omidyar to Marc Benioff have given away impressive sums of their own wealth-and in doing so, have invited much scrutiny to the question of how tech can best approach philanthropy. Google.org, however, claims that it’s different: as an agnostic organization, it says can be more objective than individuals who might be more passion-driven about the issues they pick.
In this case, Google.org says it has data-driven reasons for making disabilities its cause. More than a billion people live with a disability worldwide. A person with a disability, regardless of where he or she lives or works, has fewer opportunities than more able-bodied peers. In a place like the US, 50 to 70 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed; in developing nations, that proportion rises to as high as 80 to 90 percent, according to the United Nations. Access is another concern: Only 5 to 15 percent of people with disabilities in developing countries have access to the assistive devices they need, the World Health Organization determined.
What Dot-org says it can uniquely offer is broadening disabled people’s access to services and technology that will improve their lives, in small and big ways. One obvious way Google.org can do this is by lending tech expertise to nonprofits to create efficient, affordable products and services. But Google.org also wants to give everyone equal access, helping these nonprofits figure out how to overcome barriers to getting their projects into the hands of people who need them, whether that’s through upending stodgy insurance models, open sourcing project plans, or building in customization so that more individuals can find products designed specifically for their unique conditions. It also can’t hurt that Google is a company with a truly global reach.
The Center for Discovery’s indieGo, which Google gave over $1 million, is a model example of a nonprofit that could uniquely benefit from Google’s tech-savviness. The indieGo is a lightweight frame with a motor that converts any wheelchair into a powered one. Its inventors are experimenting with a variety of control mechanisms, from joysticks to touch buttons and industry-standard switches.
“Someone with a spinal cord injury who has use of their hands, though not their legs, could use a joystick with this device,” John Damaio, creator of the indieGo system, says. “But you can take this to another patient who maybe doesn’t have use of their hands, but has use of their head and neck, to drive with their head using the same device.” Because its tech is more sophisticated, a power wheelchair with head and neck controls could cost thousands of dollars more than a joystick-controlled chair, Damaio says. Meanwhile, the indieGo is aiming to go on the market for about $1,000-significantly lower than other power wheelchairs out there.
The nonprofit also plans to cut out middlemen, so that users who need the assistive device can order it directly. Perhaps most significant of all: the indieGo device plan is open source, right in line with Dot-org’s criteria. If all goes well, according to its road map developed in conjunction with Google.org, indieGo could be ready for manufacturing within two years.
Yes, the indieGo team has lofty goals. But they think they can get there. “The nice thing is, Dot-org isn’t just giving us money and stepping away,” McNamara says, anticipating that the team will need help soon, especially when it comes to specific technical questions-like how to extend their device’s battery life. “I assume with Google’s driverless car, that they have a whole slew of battery experts,” McNamara says. “We could reach out to them and ask for advice on the batteries that we are going to be using in our own device.”
There’s no way to know now whether all of Google.org’s bets will succeed. More likely than not, these nonprofits won’t hit every single one of their targets. But risk is inherent to philanthropy, as Google knows-and that’s to say nothing of the increased public scrutiny on such a high-profile institutional organization. Whether its investments succeed or fail, Dot-org-and its beneficiaries-are revealing a unique way to do tech philanthropy. And it’s one way that may well shape our expectations for how philanthropy is done by other very wealthy and very powerful organizations in the future.
Reminder GTT Ottawa meeting Tonight Monday March 14 from 6-8 PM. 20 James street. Our topic for the night is talking to your phone: how to use siri, dictation, google, most effectively with your tablets and phones.
What are the differences between siri and dictation?
Which gives you better results when searching siri or google?
Bring your questions and tips and tricks.
Time: 6-8 PM March 14.
location: 20 James street.
For more information call Kim at