Google Apps Engine Research Awards Go to 7 Innovative Projects

Google is starting the new program to encourage use of the Google App Engine platform for research experiments and analysis.

Google has awarded its first-ever Google App Engine Research Awards to seven projects that will use the App Engine platform's abilities to work with large data sets for academic and scientific research.

The new program, which was announced in the spring of 2012, brought in many proposals for a wide variety of scientific research, including in subject areas such as mathematics, computer vision, bioinformatics, climate and computer science, according to a Feb. 12 post by Andrea Held, program manager for Google university relations, on the Google Developers Blog.

"We selected seven projects and have awarded each $60,000 in Google App Engine credits recognizing their innovation and vision," wrote Held. "We are excited about the proposals' creativity and innovation and look forward to learning about their discoveries."

Google created the fledgling App Engine Research Awards program to bolster its support of academic research, while providing academic researchers with access to Google's infrastructure so they can explore innovative ideas in their fields, according to Google. The App Engine platform is particularly suited to managing heavy data loads and running large-scale applications.

The winning projects—and their principal investigators in this first competition—are as follows:

  1. Cloud-based Event Detection for Sense and Response, conducted by K. Mani Chandy, a professor of Computer Science at the California Institute of Technology. The project uses an App Engine-based sense and response platform for the Community Seismic Network (CSN) project with a goal of measuring seismic events with finer spatial resolution than previously possible, according to the post. Another goal is to develop a low-cost alternative to traditional seismic networks, which have high capital costs for acquisition, deployment and ongoing maintenance.
  2. A Software Benchmark and Simulation Forecaster, conducted by Lawrence Chung, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. The project is designed to build forecasting tools that can give businesses estimates on the performance and costs for running their applications on the Google App Engine so they can decide if it will meet their business needs.
  3. Personalized DNA Analysis, conducted by Julian Gough, a professor at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. The project will set up a service powered by App Engine that provides personal DNA analysis specific to each individual. The proposed service does not focus on disease, but on identifying aspects of a healthy person that make them unique.
  4. Vision Blocks, conducted by Dr. Ramesh Raskar of the MIT Media Lab, and Dr. Erick Baptista Passos, of the Federal Institute of Technology in Brazil (IFPI). Vision Blocks is a research project that aims to make computer vision available to everyone, according to the post. The primary goal is to develop tools for delivering computer vision to masses through an extensible visual programming language and an online application building and sharing system.
  5. Mapping the Dynamics of a City & Nudging Twitter Users, conducted by Norman Sadeh, a professor in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University; Justin Cranshaw and Hazim Almuhimedi, Ph.D. students at the school. The project is in two parts, including a computational approach to analyzing large-scale trends in the ways people move through dense urban areas, as well as an effort to use quantitative and qualitative approaches to understand why people post things on Twitter they wish they had not posted. The objective is to develop tools that help nudge users to reduce the likelihood of those posts.
  6. Sage: Creating a Viable Free Open-Source Alternative to Magma, Maple, Matlab, and Mathematica, conducted by William Stein, a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington. The goal is to create a highly scalable and resilient Website through which very large numbers of people can use Sage, a free open-source mathematics software system licensed under the GPL.
  7. Cloud Computing-Based Visualization and Access of Global Climate Data Sets, a project being conducted by Enrique Vivoni, an associate professor of Hydrologic Science, Engineering & Sustainability at Arizona State University; Dr. Giuseppe Mascaro, a research engineer; Jyothi Marupila, a graduate student; and Mario A. Rodriguez, a software engineer. The project uses Google App Engine for analyzing global climate data within the Google Maps API. The objective is to provide scientific data on global climate trends by allowing map-based queries and summaries, according to the post.

Google is active in providing resources for research and educational projects in many areas. The company just announced its ninth annual Google Summer of Code contest, which invites college students to learn about the world of open-source code development. The program has involved some 6,000 college and university students from more than 100 countries since its start in 2005.