Following the news last week that Google was changing the way it operated, becoming a new company called Alphabet – of which Google would be a subsidiary, there has been a lot of buzz around what is coming from the newly formed company. The theory behind the shift was to allow the company to become more experimental with their projects, self driving cars and virtual reality don’t really fit under the original search function of the Google search engine from all those years ago. One of the things to come out of the shuffle, while only small in comparison to much of the news has caught our attention – it’s called Android Experiments and is for developers to show off their most exciting projects with the Android platform.
The Android Experiments site is a follow up to the Chrome Experiments which was launched in 2009 as a way to promote exciting things that people were doing with Chrome. The only prerequisite for Chrome experiments was that it had to be something creative and work with the browsers. Similarly Android Experiments is open to all who want to build something using Android 4.4 (KitKat) and above that isn’t your usual, run of the mill application. Anyone can submit an idea to Android Experiments where it will be considered under manual review before being published to the site. If the experiment is published, it will be available for download by anyone who wants it through the Google Play Store.
Currently there are just 20 projects on the Android Experiments site, however more are sure to follow. Some of the ideas currently available include Time Mesh, an application for Android Wear which will display the time as normal, however when you get stressed then ripples will flow through the face, altering your perception of time. Inkspace, a drawing tool which uses the accelerometers on the phone to turn your creation into a 3d masterpiece. Landmarker which is a beautifully simple city guide, by utilising GPS, accelerometers and the Google Places API, you can move your phone around the city and discover landmarks around you. Boo! an interesting project which displays a collection of cute critters on the screen and activates the front facing camera, rather than display the front facing camera input though, the creatures will appear on the screen for as long as it doesn’t pick up a face looking at them.
Android experiments is quite unique in that there are no other similar stores for any of the other mobile operating systems. It could even be said that while Alphabet are encouraging creativity with this experiments platform for Android, Apple are quite actively stifling developers efforts with strict guidelines on publication and distribution of apps. That’s not to say that people can’t trial innovative ideas with the Apple platform, however the two week approval process and no guarantee of going live is sure to ward some developers off trialing their ideas out for the iOS platform. It will be interesting to keep an eye on some future developments from the Android Experiments website and hopefully these will inspire future developers to use some of the elements from these innovative and fun projects into more mainstream applications in future.