Google is rather keen on extolling the virtues of the InterWebs to us all. Its reasons for doing so are rather obvious – without the Web Google wouldn’t even exist, let alone be a global company worth billions of dollars – but we appreciate the effort regardless. Google is also keen to promote its Web browser Chrome, so its latest venture, titled Web Lab, is an effort to educate and promote at the same time.
Chrome Web Lab is a set of five experiments that can be tested both in the real world as a live experiment in the Science Museum – one of the best museums in London, especially for geeks – and in the online world via Chrome. You can try to take part using an alternate browser such as Firefox or Internet Explorer, but I had no joy until I switched to Chrome. Google is nothing if not canny.
Web Lab allows you to “see the magic of the web brought to life through 5 Chrome Experiments.” The experiments in question, as detailed below, are Universal Orchestra, Teleporter, Sketchbots, Data Tracer, and Lab Tag Explorer. Each experiment features an interactive element, but to fully take part in all of them you have to set up, or sign into, an account.
Universal Orchestra is pretty self-explanatory, with you taking a role in an orchestra made up of different people both in the Science Museum and online. You choose an instrument from the following – temple blocks, steel tongue drum, crotales, vibraphone, drums, marimba, kalimba, and mixed percussion – and then choose when to play your notes to add to the global symphony. This experiment is designed to demonstrate real-time collaboration on the Web. And it’s also a lot of fun.
Teleporter features live feeds from locations around the world, and you get to choose which you want to visit, albeit virtually. I chose the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, South Africa, and was transported there instantly via a camera showing a 360-degree vista from literally (underwater) inside the aquarium. This experiment is designed to demonstrate compression and how the Web allows you to travel anywhere in the world instantly for a spot of sightseeing.
Sketchbots is by far the most interesting experiment in the Web Lab. After you give Chrome permission to access your webcam, it takes a picture of you and then processes it, finally vectorizing it into something similar to what you can see in the image (of my beardy self) below. After asking for further permission, the sketchbot will then draw the image out in the real world that was sourced online. This experiment is designed to demonstrate the use of programming language and how it allows the Web to connect to physical objects.
Data Tracer isn’t a very exciting experiment, but it’s important nonetheless. You search for an image using keywords and you’re shown a series of pictures and asked to click on one or more. Web Lab then visually shows you where that image is located in the real world and how long it took to find and retrieve it online. I chose Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek because, well, he’s awesome. This experiment is designed to demonstrate how data travels across the Web. It does so at a scarily fast rate that is easy to take for granted.
Lab Tag Explorer
Lab Tag Explorer brings all the previous experiments together by presenting all the data obtained in a visual format. The little shapes cascading out of the Web Lab logo (as seen at the top of this article) are revealed as being representative of individual users and their creations. This experiment is designed to demonstrate how easy it is to find and explore data online. Which is obviously both a blessing and a curse, and something Google is partly responsible for.
The Chrome Web Lab from Google offers a fascinating look at certain aspects of the Internet that we are all aware of but rarely take any notice of. All of the experiments further cement the belief by many (myself included) that the Web is the greatest invention of all time, and one that will keep evolving over time to an end point with unlimited potential.
If you visit the Chrome Web Lab I’d love to hear what you think of it. Is there one experiment in particular you found fascinating? Whether you enjoy it or not you may also want to check out Cube, a Web game based on Google Maps previously featured here on MakeUseOf.