Google Chrome Web Lab

Bringing internet technologies to life in an interactive physical exhibition

An exhibition for 6 million people

We designed the industrial look and feel of the interactive web-connected experiments in Chrome Web Lab; a unique year-long exhibition at the Science Museum, LondonWeb Lab was about provoking thought on how we perceive the internet. Visitors to the Museum were able to play with five unique experiments, whilst at the same time, online participants could visit chromeweblab.com and interact with the same experiments.

Universal Orchestra

Universal Orchestra was an Internet-powered eight-piece orchestra creating harmonious music. To create new archetypes that separate users familiarity with musical instruments, we reimagined the forms of standard instruments. For example the marimba is abstracted, and flipped to a vertical position and exploded into a graphic, circular arrangement. Similarly the drum kit was made up of wooden blocks that were suspended in a spiral configuration, these were easily viewed by museum visitors but also cleverly captured as a cluster through the overhead webcam.

400k museum visits and 6.5m online visits from 196 countries

Sketchbots

Sketchbots were custom-built robots able to take photographs and then sketch them in sand. Users in the museum or online users could watch and share a bespoke video of the results. We developed a sturdy laboratory-like frame for each Sketchbot with a Corian base and acrylic cover. A circular flow takes users through the steps of taking their photo, watching it processed into vectors and then drawn in the sand by a custom robot arm. The motorised sand tray then rotates until a metal blade erases the image ready for new users.

Data Tracer

Data Tracer experiment is designed to visualise the vast structure and incredible speed of the web in an engaging way. A stylised model of the world allows users to search for any image on the web and then reveal how data travels to retrieve that image. We combined a physical topological map machined from Corian with projection mapping to communicate the interactive information and visualise the search path. All the experiments have touch-screen interfaces, with optical card readers so museum visitors can store their searches and other web artefacts on Lab Tags for retrieval at home.

Teleporter

The Teleporter experiment lets viewers travel instantly and immersively to far away places across the globe. 360 degree video feeds from an aquarium in Capetown, a miniature village in Hamburg and a bakery in North Carolina let users explore and save snapshots to share. We developed height adjustable moving pods with immersive sound for viewers, which have a canopy showing a projected form of the uncompressed 360 video stream. Images can be saved and shared to the nearby snapshot wall.

Lab Tag Connector

Every visitor to the exhibition, online and in the museum, is represented by a “Lab Tag”: a visual code that can be scanned at each experiment to let users keep track of their activity. Lab Tag Connector is a visualisation of all Web Lab visitors from around the world that groups and categorises participants in incredible ways. 

A unique multi-agency collaboration

Google’s ambition for the project was huge in that they wanted to deliver an exhibition experience unlike any other, a true merging of physical and digital engagement, reaching far beyond the walls of the museum to engage new larger and more diverse audiences.

This ground breaking project was a multi-agency collaboration with our friends at Google Creative Lab, Tellart, Universal Design Studio, B-reel, Bibliothèque, Karsten Schmidt and Weir & Wong.