Forget Facebook’s 1.01 billion users. In the near future, social networking may involve navigating a stylishly animated Google Plus on your desktop computer while resting comfortably in a chair a few feet away, using your smartphone as a remote control.
That’s at least the promise of a new demo Google launched on Wednesday. Called “ODEM Google+,” the demo, created by London and San Francisco-based design firm Toaster Limited allows users with an Apple iPhone or Android smartphone and desktop computers to quickly navigate a sample user’s Google Plus profile page on the computer, pulling up eye-popping new features including a 3D carousel view of the sample account’s Friend “Circles,” a 3D cube of the Google Plus’s video “Hangouts” feature, and flip through the sample account’s photos like a deck of cards.
All of the navigation is done from a user’s smartphone but shows up on the desktop computer, and it’s all done through existing technology, namely: the Google Search app for iPhone and Android and Google’s Chrome Browser for desktop computers and mobile devices. The technology also finally puts QR codes, those speckled black and white square barcodes that Google and others have been experimenting with for years but have failed to catch on in a mainstream way, to good use.
Check out a video of the ODEM Google+ demo below, posted on YouTube on Wednesday by Toaster Limited:
To try the demo out for themselves, a user needs to download the Google Search app and Google Chrome app on their smartphone (Android 4+ or iOS 4.3+). Then the user needs to open the Google Search app on their phone and click on the “Google Goggles” feature (shown below):
On their desktop computer, the user needs to have Google’s free Chrome browser installed and use it to visit this webpage: http://odem.chromeexperiments.com/, where a QR code should be visible. Once there, the user should use their smartphone’s camera and the “Google Goggles” feature to scan the QR code, at which point the demo will begin.
The demo is restricted to the sample Google Plus account for now. TPM has reached out to Google and Toaster Ltd. to find out if they plan to expand the test further to any other Google Plus accounts or Google services, such as Web Search or Gmail.
But even at this stage, the test indicates a powerful asset Google has going into its social networking battle against Facebook, Twitter and others: The ability to leverage Google’s advanced Chrome web browser and existing smartphone apps to offer a unique and engaging new way for users to interact with the Web and each other.
The demo also indicates why Facebook may be or have have been interested in acquiring a Web browser of its own, such as the Swedish Opera browser, as was rumored earlier this year — as a dedicated browser would allow Facebook to have more control over how users could view its website, and allow Facebook to obtain more usage data from user’s web habits outside of its own domain.
Put another way: Google Plus on its own hasn’t attracted anywhere close to as many users (400 million as of September 2012) as Facebook’s 1.01 billion (600+ million on mobile devices), but Google has other products and resources at its disposal which, if combined just right, could offer a compelling, gesture-based alternative to the standard, point and click-based social networking interface.
Separately, Microsoft’s success with its Kinect motion controller for the XBox and PC, and the arrival of new gesture-based or motion controllers, indicate a growing market for such remote methods of interaction and control. Your move, Facebook.