Little Grey Cells #9… Google’s Chrome Web Lab experiments and dazzles

Steve Vranakis is Creative Director at Google Creative Lab for EMEA

What is the Chrome Web Lab?

Web Lab is a series of real world Chrome experiments that bring the workings of the Internet to life, with the goal of inspiring people on the possibilities of the Web. Everything on offer in the Science Museum in London can be accessed online from anywhere in the world here

How long has the Chrome Web Lab been in development?

Web Lab has been in development for more than a year. The first phase involved a huge amount of research and development, scoping and iterating as many of the experiments on show have never been attempted before.

How did you choose the five experiments in the Web Lab?

The idea is to bring different web technologies to life through a series of five experiments:

* Universal Orchestra: An internet-powered eight-piece robotic orchestra

* Sketchbots: Custom-built robots able to take and sketch photographs

* Data Tracer: A map that traces where the world’s online information is stored

* Teleporter: A series of web-enabled periscopes

* Lab Tag Explorer: A real-time visualisation of all Web Lab visitors

Each Web Lab experiment uses a modern web technology to explore a particular idea in computer science. Web Lab demonstrates the power and potential of the Internet to in-museum and online visitors of all ages and backgrounds.

Which of the five was the most difficult to set up and why?

They were all equally ambitious ideas to try to bring to life. One of the most difficult involved installing a domed camera inside a fish tank (complete with sharks!) in South Africa that will allow both online visitors and people in the museum to experience it live from the inside the tank in 360 degrees.

This involved getting a high-speed web connection into the aquarium, water-proofing the camera, installing additional lighting and writing bespoke code to stream all of the video in real-time into the Chrome browser.

You made the leap from Creative Director at a leading London advertising agency to Google – why?

I had a fantastic time whilst working at numerous design, digital and advertising agencies and loved every minute of it. But, since launching one of the first ever ISPs in my hometown in Vancouver in 1993, I’ve been fascinated with all the opportunities that the Internet allows for. This job allows me to explore the infinite possibilities that technology brings to creativity.

What have you learned since your arrival at Google?

I’ve learned incredible amounts of different things since being here. How to work in a truly collaborative environment, to rapidly prototype – launch early and iterate, and other unique ways of working in an engineering-led company.

Technology is also the main driver for all our projects and platforms, so everything more or less begins with knowing the magic inside our products and connecting them to the users.

How do you keep your focus when you are juggling so many inspirational ideas?

I have very talented people working with me. Designers, artists, filmmakers, coders, producers and strategists. We spend a lot of time up front really thinking through and getting to the heart of an idea. Why people would care and what it does for our products. What is the story? Then I let my team run free and bring their magic to the process. They all lead their own ideas and are responsible for all aspects of their projects.

Where is the most beautiful place that you have ever been?

Inside Paolo Roversi’s photographic studio in Paris, the new Acropolis museum in Athens and walking the High Line in Manhattan in the summer time.

What was the last album you bought or downloaded?

The most recent Guided By Voices CD. Very cool indeed.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

I’ve got two little boys aged 2 and 4; I’m not sure what you mean by relax, unwind?

Tim Healey (15 Posts)

Tim is a DJ, music producer and digital advertiser.