As it turns out, many of Google’s most curious apps these days are coming from a new and unlikely source: Area 120. Google calls Area 120 a hub for the company’s more experimental products and it functions like a startup incubator. Some of its creations include Uptime, the recently released social YouTube app that allows users to watch video together, and Supersonic Fun Voice Messenger, which transforms speech into emojis.
Now, you can be notified when Area 120 releases its next crazy app, as signup for early access is live on the department’s site. The form simply requests an email address and the mobile platform of your choice — not surprising, considering Area 120 has already established a precedent of not playing favorites with operating systems. Uptime, which was just made available to the masses after an invite-only period, remains an iOS-only affair.
But that is not all Area 120 has made. There is Grasshopper, an Android app that attempts to teach users to code with a Duolingo-esque five-minutes-a-day model, as well as Tailor, an iPhone app that puts you in contact with a personal stylist for a second opinion on your new look and can even help you track down the next item in your wardrobe. They have even built a salon scheduling system called Appointments.
On Wednesday, Area 120 made yet another announcement in the form of Advr — a platform for advertisements in virtual reality. That is quite a diverse selection of products from a wing of the company that has barely been around a year, but the contributions show no sign of slowing.
The culture behind Area 120 is an expansion of Google’s long-held philosophy that employees should spend 20 percent of their productivity on interesting, creative side projects. The difference here is, according to TechCrunch, that Googlers who qualify for the program end up working full-time on those pursuits in teams for a period of six months. The site forewarns that “most of these experiments will fail,” but the program succeeds when teams “test the limits and learn something new.”
It’s an interesting structure that has already resulted in some unique products. Between Uptime’s public release earlier in the week, Advr breaking cover, and the launch of Area 120’s site and early access signup, it seems Google has even more exciting plans for its most creative division going forward.
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