Google Web Lab

I finally made it down to the Web Lab at the Science Museum, which is a new gallery by Google that celebrates the creative wonders of the internet.

When I got down the stairs I m initially overwhelmed by the possibility that I time travelled to the Hacienda. Bold exhibition graphics (by Bibliotheque) on the tarmac floor, white cages and a whole gang of hazard signs give a very welcome nod to Ben Kelly or just your standard chemical plant.

I now face the first machine to get my Lab Tag, a barcode card which is chunky and looks like a playing card, personally created and spat out by a machine.

I’m following the industrial floor graphics around the first cage which turns out to be the server room, again helpfully labelled with hazard signs. It is a really nice touch to make the server room part of the exhibition – a gentle reminder that all this magic needs to be stored and made by bigger machines somewhere.

A world of sci-fi analogue machinery (made by Tellart) all contained within white designer cages systems (by Universal Design/Map) opens up. The exhibition consists of five experiments that all demonstrate various technologies in a playful way.

The Universal Orchestra, a central installation of instruments that are beautifully fixed within the cages plays seemingly without any musicians. There are control units at different points that allow you to operate the eight different instruments and play alongside users on the internet. It had a fascinating aura around it, a mixture of Bladerunner, Space odyssey 2001, Bauhaus experiments and 19th century fairground set-ups.

The Data Tracer is a 3D visualisation that allows you to select individual photos pulled in from the web and traces the places where the images are actually stored on a massive world map overhead.

At the rear of the exhibition are several Scetchbots that draw your portrait in the sand. The process of getting your picture taken and processed ready for the robotic arm to draw it into the sand is thoroughly joyful, though I seemed to have crashed the first machine.

The Teleporter are peeping holes into 3 different places across the world through a live webcams. One of them lets you snoop around Amelie’s bakery, you can take a 360 scan and take pictures that are then loaded onto a wall of digital picture frames.

Finally the LabTag explorer which is a big dataviz installation of geometric shapes on entry point encourages you to explore other users created content. I’m not sure how interesting this actually would be, but I like the general concept of it.

The collaborative aspects of this show make it very inviting and a playful place to take yourself or your kids to. There is the online version (by Be-reel) at , where you can log in and play with or without your Labtag.

See my flickr set here

The exhibition is on until summer 2013.