Google’s Rubik’s Cube isn’t just a cool game: it’s an argument for the future of computing.
"The Rubik’s Cube is many things. It is a toy, it is a puzzle, it is a math problem," says Google Creative Lab’s Richard The, "but it is also just really interesting as a design object." He sees the Rubik’s Cube as emblematic of all things Google: the primary colors, the playfulness, the sense of complexity underlying something seemingly basic and easy to understand.
Google’s secretive R&D lab Google X gets lots of attention for testing and developing moonshot ideas, even though its work has touched few consumers. Fast Company took readers for a detailed behind-the-scenes look inside the Google X operations in April—a world of driverless cars, high-flying Wi-Fi balloons, and even space elevators.
The search giant’s rival Microsoft—a company that could use some disruptive ideas as it struggles to gain major new revenue streams in the shifting computing market—is now taking a cue from its competitor and launching a “Special Projects” group, headed by former deputy director at DARPA Norman A. Whitaker and under the umbrella of Microsoft Research, the company’s sprawling university-like research division.
At a lab office ribbon cutting in New York City, Co.Exist spoke with Microsoft Research chief Peter Lee, who last summer stepped up to oversee his division’s 1,150 scientists and engineers. His comments provide a glimpse into how the $65 billion company is changing the way it thinks about innovation.
A few weeks ago, I asked Jon Wiley, the lead designer for Google Search, if the Google homepage would ever fundamentally change, or if it would always be a white box beneath the Google logo.
He wouldn’t commit either way, but admitted a particular fondness for the design, citing its “iconic simplicity,” and pointing out that among other tweaks, Google had actually made that search box larger over the years, a seemingly small change that made a huge difference to usability.
Now, student Jake Nolan has taken Google’s bigger box evolution a step further.
“So where does all this leave what is, on the surface, a rudderless social network like Google+? Unlike Google Reader (which had a small but passionate audience) or Google Wave (which almost no one used), the Plus profile is now baked into Google on an infrastructure level. You need the Plus login for everything from Google’s apps on Apple’s iPhone to next-gen technology like Google Glass. Google’s footprint isn’t just across the web anymore. It’s everywhere.”
As Chief Creative Officer for Google Creative Lab, it’s Robert Wong’s job to live and breath inspiration. From how he finds his to how he encourages his people to attain theirs, he tells us the best ways to feed creativity. Read more>
Google’s offices, though always Google-y, tend to take inspiration from their location. The original campus in Mountain View is sprawling and sunny, like an alternate-universe Stanford. The New York offices, on the far West Side, are industrial and loft-like. (More examples: London, Pittsburgh, Dublin.) And the new Amsterdam offices have stroopwafel ceiling panels.