Friday, July 22, 2011

Google doodle Alexander Calder's moving mobile

Google published a doodle today that commemorates artist Alexander Calder with an interactive sculpture that sways when a person tilts an accelerometer-equipped laptop.
Calder is famous for sculptures he called mobiles--hanging weights and struts that are carefully counterbalanced so they slowly drift into new configurations. The doodle, published on Calder's 113th birthday, tilts when a laptop tilts and slowly spins if a person clicks and drags on the sculpture.
The swaying feature requires not just an accelerometer-equipped laptop but also a browser that can expose that information to a Web application. In my tests on a Mac this morning, that meant Chrome but not Safari or Firefox.
Google's doodles began as whimsical drawings that provided a bit of variation on the company's primary-color logo. They've steadily increased in prominence and sophistication, with an annual contest for students to draw their own and with ever-more dynamic doodles.
Examples include a playable Pac-Man game, a musical tribute to guitarist Les Paul, and leaping dancers.
The company has a dedicated team of artists to create the doodles. They get to recognize famous moments and people--and help Google with its mission of evangelizing the world of Web programming and the abilities of its own browser.

Google software engineer Jered Wierzbicki posted on the official Google blog that he was inspired by a recent visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, where he was taken in by a room of Calder's work: "all beautifully balanced and proportioned, moving gently in the air currents like a whimsical metal forest. Calder took ordinary materials at hand—wire, scraps of sheet metal—and made them into brilliant forms, letting space and motion do the rest. As an engineer, I work with abstractions, too, so this really struck me."
The engineer was part of a team that then took that muse and created "Google’s first doodle made entirely using HTML5 canvas." That means you need to use "a modern browser to interact with it. It runs a physics simulation on the mobile’s geometry, and then does realtime 3D rendering with vector graphics.

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