Google Web Lab

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Google Web Lab

Over the weekend I went and checked out Google’s Web Lab experiments at the Science Museum. Google’s Web Lab is made of 5 Chrome experiment installations that bring the extraordinary workings of the internet to life and aims to inspire the world to the possibilities of the web. In this interactive exhibition worldwide visitors both at the museum and online are able to collaborate to make music with people across the world; launch digital images into cyberspace and see where they are on the web; travel instantly to far away places all over the world and watch their portrait being processed, translated, and then drawn in sand by a robot, all in real time.

Lab Tag - Web Lab

Lab Tag Explorer

Each visitor is given a clever ‘Lab Tag’ to represent them in the virtual space online and the physical space at the Science Museum. This ‘Lab Tag’ is your ID for everything you create in the Google Web Lab and with some clever QR code technology you can then use it to retrieve your creations. This is all done via the ‘Lab Tag Explorer’, a website where you can explore the global community and browse visitors’ creations.

Tag Explorer - Web Lab


The Sketchbot takes a photo of your face using a webcam via HTML5’s canvas and processes this into a line drawing. This data is then sent to the robot arm and it starts to sketch your face into the sand. Check out the video below of the Sketchbot drawing my face in the sand. This by far was my favourite expriment at the Web Lab.

Sketchbot Closeup


Next up were the Teleporter experiments, where you get transported to another part of the planet, you can explore a panoramic 360° scene in real-time and take photos. The 3 locations you can be transported to are the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, the Miniature Wunderland in Hamburg and Amelie’s Bakery in North Carolina. Sadly apart from seeing a few fish swimming about in the aquarium this was a bit of a disappointing experience.

Teleporters - Web Lab

Universal Orchestra

In the Universal Orchestra experiment, you can play some funky musical instruments set up in the Science Museum, over the internet, with people from all over the world whenever you want and in real-time. You control each instrument via a touch screen, where you can control the notes being played and the timing. People accessing the instruments from the internet have same screen but use their mouse to control them. Check out my musical talent with people from Russia and Spain in the video below.

Orchestra - Web Lab

Data Tracer

With the Data Tracer you track routes across the internet’s vast networks and discover where images are stored. The Data Tracer combines the information from Traceroute with a 3D virtual world map to show you where the information comes from and how fast it is pinged across the planet.

Data Tracer - Web Lab

The experiments at Google’s Web Lab push the limits of what it’s possible to do in a web browser. The main technologies used to make these experiments work, include WebGL for amazing real-time 3D graphics; web sockets for realtime two way communication and advanced video streaming that allows you to see live locations from across the web. Web Workers is used to process lots of data fast; canvas controls individual pixels in the browser and Javascript + V8 powers each of the experiments.

If you love the web and a little bit of a geeky, go check out the Web Lab at the Science Museum. Experiment with your browser, the possibilities are endless!