Google’s got the money. It boasts of a massive revenue amounting to US $89.46 billion annually. It’s also got the reputation. It boasts of a brilliant lineage of successful businesses – cloud computing, driverless cars, advertising technologies, IoT solutions and Maps, to name a few. Its parent company, Alphabet Inc. was founded on 2nd October, 2015, as a result of major restructuring in the organization and business divisions. Alphabet, led by CEO Larry Page, currently has 8 major branches under itself:
Google, Google Capital, Google Ventures, Nest, Calico, Google X, Google Fiber and Sidewalk Labs, along with several other offshoots that are not named in the company’s regulatory filing. With such a diverse approach to technology, Google has surely risen to claim its position as a tech-giant.
The following list of projects covers the under-rated and less popular projects that Google has its hands painted in:
Project Jacquard is Google’s play in to wearable technology. It aims to decouple touch interfaces from digital devices, and thus make the first move in developing commercial wearable technologies. To make the garments interactive, Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group collaborated with Levi Strauss & Co. The project was announced in Google I/O 2015. It aims to make, weaving touch and gesture interactivity into a fabric using standard industrial looms, a reality.
Using conductive yarns, that combine metallic alloys with natural fibers, any piece of clothing or furniture can turn into an interactive entity. The yarns used under Project Jacquard are similar to any other regular yarns and can be woven just like them. The customized garments can be made-to-order, at specified locations on the textile.
These sensor grids are then connected to tiny embedded electronic circuits, sized no larger than a button. These circuits capture the gesture interactions and use Machine Learning to compute them. The outputs, in the form of LEDs or any other embedded signals, then connect the user to the digital world. Despite being a promising technology, it is still fledgling. It needs to traverse a long way of commercialization and rectification, before the technology gets to the masses.
Google Public Data Explorer
Google Public Data Explorer is a forum that makes large datasets of interest to the public available to them. You can explore, visualize and communicate on the data using Public Data Explorer. The charts and maps navigate over time, making it easier for the viewers to read the data. A user can navigate through multiple views, make comparisons and manipulations to draw conclusions and then share findings. The database can also be linked to different webpages or can be embedded in various platforms to share them with a varied audience.
Besides the datasets already available on the Explorer, users can also use their own datasets. To do this, they do not actually need to upload the dataset. The Data Provider Information Form allows users to link the Explorer to the dataset, which can then be used by you and various other users for a variety of operations. Data formats and variables can be chosen as per the users’ comfort levels.
Public Data Explorer has a plethora of datasets to offer like Government debt levels, population density, gender balance in parliaments or even Internet speeds across demographics.
Solve for X
To explain ‘Solve for X’ as a concept, we first need to acquaint ourselves with what Google calls ‘moonshot thinking’. The term describes the process of application of a breakthrough technology to solve global challenges in radically innovative ways. Google’s attempt to launch an experimental forum for these budding ideas is called ‘Solve for X’. It is a sponsored conference for entrepreneurs, scientists and innovators to collate ideas and technological solutions for the world’s gravest problems.
To amplify technology-based moonshot thinking, Google’s Solve for X records lectures and talks (along the lines of TED Talks), based on an invite-only online event format. The speakers must ensure that the lectures offer a perspicacious insight into the problem along with a radical solution to the same, that highlights the use of breakthrough technological and scientific methods.
The ‘Solve for X’ site is what Google calls the dedicated website for X-Labs projects. It thus, lists all the projects that are being worked upon, in X-Labs, including Internet Balloons, Driverless Cars and even Delivery Drones.
Google Earth Flight Simulator
When Google Earth 4.2 was released in 2007, Google added an Easter-egg feature that had been requested for, by its users. Google Earth Flight Simulator provides the users with a virtual experience of flying planes through various terrains. Since the simulator incorporates and mimics most of the difficulty levels and technical aspects involved in the craft of flying, it attracts users across various demographics: an aviation enthusiast, a regular user exploring Google’s features and even a licensed pilot practicing VFR.
To use the feature, users would have to download the Google Earth app. You could go to Tools> Flight Simulator to then choose a plane of your choice. Once that is done, select the preferred location and enjoy the experience. To navigate the plane, you could either use a compatible joystick or your computer. Alternatively, the shortcut to launch the Simulator is to press CTRL + ALT + A. The simulator allows you to monitor all processes on your flight using a head-up display (HUD).
The entire feature has been built on worldwide satellite and aerial imagery. There is a free, online flight simulator, GEFS- Online, created by Xavier Tassin. It is built on an open-source platform called Cesium and contains a realistic flight model, based on the Thin Airfoil Theory.
Build LEGO with Chrome
Build with Chrome or Build is a product that was released as a result of a partnership between Google Chrome and LEGO. The WebGL Lego Simulator uses the Google Map as a baseplate and divides it into smaller plots of land. The users can then select a plot and use 3D LEGO blocks to build any structure as per their creativity.
The Google builders can network using their Google+ account and see what people in their circles have built. With close to 8 trillion LEGO bricks, it serves as the biggest LEGO set in the world. One can imagine, build and explore the structures built online. Build also allows you to publish these creations and share it with your friends and contacts, using a unique URL.
Evolution of the Web
Ever wondered how long the Internet has come since its inception on 6th August 1991? Google helps you visualize the entire timeline. With its interactive visualization tool, The Evolution of the Web, the Google Chrome team explores every stage of the World Wide Web’s growth.
The Evolution of the Web was launched by Google in its I/O extravaganza in 2011. It helps you track the user and data growth. Moreover, it highlights the evolution of Web technologies like HTML5, CSS3 and WebGL that drive the transformation of the modern Internet. The growth of data available on the WWW has been plotted from the point of 1 petabyte/ month in 1995 to 27,483 petabytes a month in 2011.
The interactive interface allows you to see a visual history of the designs of the various versions of different web browsers. It also represents the interaction between different web technologies and browsers using cool, colourful bands. Google Chrome partnered with Hyperakt and Vizzuality to design the visual-tool. The updated version was then released in June, 2012.
SmartyPins is yet another interesting game made by Google, using Maps as the base database. The concept of the game is to ask random trivia questions about any city, belonging to one of the 6 categories ranging from art and culture to science and geography. The user then has to place a pin on the right spot, which he thinks is the answer to the question.
Each player starts the game with 1,000 miles, which increase if you get an answer right. For every wrong answer, miles are deducted according to the distance between the correct answer and your answer. It is a fun game irrespective of your geographical flair. However, it is still not known well enough.
Google Trends Visualizer
With a diverse population of Internet users, that goes over an estimated number of 7.3 billion, it is inevitable that people search for a multitude of subjects over the news. However, there are a certain areas of interest that attract attention collectively from different demographics. Google makes it easier for you to visualize the hottest search trends across all geographical regions with its Trends Visualizer.
The layout is a treat for the eyes, as it looks like a mosaic of colorful tiles that move around on the page. You can even use Google Trends to look up for historical search trends over a span of several years. You can get maps of places with the distribution of the searches and time-series plots showing how the subject trended over time.
Google Trends can also be set as your screensaver, using a few simple steps. One can also customize the layout for the number of searches displayed at a time.
Google Art Project
Google has collaborated with the world’s most widely acclaimed art institutions to bring the most exquisite art pieces from across the world, to the masses. The online art platform, Google Arts & Culture, enables users to discover and view artworks virtually, albeit in extraordinary detail.
Announced in 2011, the Google Arts & Culture allows users to do multiple things: explore physical and contextual information about the pieces of art, take a virtual tour through the galleries and museums and even collate artworks as per their interest to make their own collection. One can also add comments to these art pieces and share them with friends and family using the URL shortener.
The virtual tour is powered by Google Street View, and uses a vehicle called ‘trolley’ to take a 360-degree image of the interiors of the galleries. Moreover, the brushstroke-level detail highlighted by Google Art Project can pique interest about art in any viewer.
Ingress was Google’s venture in the field of Augmented Reality. It was built by then-Google startup, Niantic Labs and is now almost a 5-year old game. It is a location-based augmented reality game that uses GPS to connect to the real-world. The multiplayer game uses well-known landmarks around the world to create ‘portals’. These portals can then be used to set up defences and grow a players’ territory.
The creator-organization of Ingress, Niantic Labs spun off from the parent organization in 2015. However, Google remains as a collaborator and a backer for the company.
World Wonders Project
Google’s World Wonders Project takes us on a tour of 132 different sites from the ancient and the modern world. Like the Google Art Projects, World Wonders Project also uses Google Street View to take its audience on a virtual world tour of sites like Kew Gardens, Stonehenge or the ancient Kyoto temples.
The World Wonders Projects enables students to learn about the iconic sites in an interesting way. Besides being a valuable resource, the project can be used by teachers to plan lessons on these sites. A user can use it for various reasons, from planning a vacation itinerary to getting directions to a particular destination.
Google has partnered with UNESCO, World Monuments Fund, Getty Images and Ourplace for the official information and photographs of several sites. Using this feature, they intend to make amends to the educational system by adding a hands-on approach to it.
Think of Google Primer as a platform offering crash course on marketing and sales. Google launched the mini-marketing lessons app in 2014, mainly for startups. It aimed to bridge the gaps in the skill sets of small business owners and marketers who aimed to do well in their respective fields, but failed due to lack of skill. There are a variety of topics included: programmatic buying, search advertising, mobile site design etc.
The “bite-sized” lessons can be completed in around 5 minutes each. They can be accessed either using the app or the website. Moreover, you can view the lessons while you are offline, thus facilitating on-the-go learning. Since the topics are regularly updated, the app could be used as a valuable training kit.
Searching for relevant scholarly literature and academic documents can be tedious when you have search from a vast pool of material. Google Scholar attempts to narrow the scope of your search down to a large collection of peer-reviewed online books, theses, abstracts and even academic journals. The material has been collated and created by professional societies and people belonging to the academia of various disciplines.
Google Scholar was launched in 2004. It helps you search for all scholarly literature on one forum, explore and study them carefully, keep up with the latest developments in any field and even check who is citing your publications, if any. The service is largely used by scholars and scientists, who believe that it has transformed the way online literature is consulted.
To create the large pool of material, the Web is crawled through, and any new piece of literature that is related to the rest of the material in the database is indexed. Asking for permission from publishers to crawl their entire text was one challenge faced by the creators of Google Scholar. It has also tried to accommodate features like a recommendations engine, author profile page and query alerts, thus digressing from a regular search engine. Despite small flaws and challenges, Google Scholar seems to be performing well.
While maintaining its stand as a proponent of clean energy, Google introduced the Project Sunroof in the year 2015. The primary motive of the project was to encourage millions of users to adopt solar energy for their domestic uses. To enable rooftop solar installations, Google uses high-resolution aerial imagery (Google Earth) to estimate the potential solar energy that can be drawn by a given roof. Factors like the roof orientation, shade, area and local weather patterns are taken into account for the same.
They then use this calculation to come up with estimated savings with solar energy. If a user opts to go ahead, Project Sunroof helps them connect to local service providers and accelerates the installation process. As of May 2016, Google’s Project Sunroof had expanded to 42 states across the United States of America. Google aims to cover as many households as it can in the shortest span of time.
Although there is some interested piqued around the concept of Google Cardboard, it is still not very popular. Google Cardboard is Google’s way of making Virtual Reality accessible to the masses. The idea behind the product was to create a container that could turn any cell-phone into a VR headset. To facilitate this, they used lenses in the box and created the 3D immersion feel.
One can use the Cardboard Apps for watching 360-degree photos and videos. Besides these, you can also use it for in-depth experiences like exploring a ship-wreck. There are various VR games that have been built for Google Cardboard. Some of the games are Space Shooters, and several horror games. You can get your Cardboard apparatus, depending on your phone size, desired build and material used.
Some more to browse…
These are some of the great Google projects that are not as popular as they should be. Google has a lot of exciting technology to offer through these products and features. Besides the above mentioned projects, there are a few other apps and products that Google has its hands painted with. Some of them have been listed here:
- Project Loon (internet balloons)
- Project Soli (sensing technology for touchless gestures)
- One Today
- Creative Sandbox Guide
- Google Sites
- Project Tango (Augmented Reality Computing platform)
While not all of them are as popular as Google’s web browser, they sure can be explored.