Google+ has been the talk of the digital town the past couple of weeks. But while Google’s latest jump into social media is exciting, it can be easy to forget just how much cool stuff Google rolls out on a regular basis.
With that in mind, we present 14 cool Google Labs experiments you might have missed. Try out some of these apps for your phone, email, and calendar or for your research. A special thanks goes out to Sean Carlson at Google and Paige Schoknecht of Cutline for pointing out some great features.
1. Search results can be overwhelming, particularly when researching a broad topic. Google Squared makes data more digestible. Type in a topic and Google instantly pulls together a chart for you with relevant information and images. An example would be my search for great inventors, which delivered a quick block of heavy hitters from Franklin to Fermi.
2. When you looking for an image on the web, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all those tiny thumbnails. Google Image Swirl is the antidote. It organizes your image results into related groups and subgroups, and then displays them in wheels that are visually arresting. Searches are still limited, but there’s already plenty to play around with.
3. Get some culture from your desktop. If you haven’t explored the Google Art Project, you’re missing out. Featuring some of the world’s greatest museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City or the National Museum in London, you can walk through the digitalized of the museum or scroll through a series of famous artworks. Talk about a staycation.
4. If you’re like me, you probably love Google’s suggestions in the search bar. But do you ever wonder how different suggested searches compare? Wonder no more. Check out the Web Seer app to see to compare what suggestions pop up on two different terms like cat vs. dog.
5. With the amount of news breaking every minute, just typing in a search term in Google News seems pointless at times. Google Fast Flip is a visually appealing solution. It pops up easy-to-preview pages of the latest articles and headlines from sites all over the world. You can toggle through recent headlines, select from general categories like “Facebook”, or search the topic of your choice.
6. Got a burning question and not sure who to ask? Try asking Aardvark. Aardvark is Google’s Q&A forum. You sign up and ask questions and Aardvark finds someone who can answer. You can also answer others questions. Best yet, when you connect the app to your Google account, you can ask questions and receive answers directly in your Gmail chat. For instance I asked, “Where can I go for good Italian food in Boston?” My answer came a minute later via chat.
7. Can’t get enough of data? Try Google Public Data Explorer. Google provides a number of publicly available datasets and arranges the data in interactive charts. You can see how fuel efficiency has changed over the years. Run the number on Global broadband performance or even look at flu rates. The datasets are still limited, but it’s enough to keep you hooked for hours and hours.
8. Ever wonder what different groups like on YouTube? With YouTube Insights for Audience, you can get an idea. Pick a gender, select an age range, geographic regions and areas of interests. Google then breaks out relevant audience statistics, verticals of interest, examples of popular videos they’re watching, even the search terms they use.
9. Google can guess what images you want to search. Really. Enabling Google Instant allows Google to update image results as you type them, making the return that much faster.
10. Zooming can be such a pain. Google, however, detour around that pain. If you enable Google’s Drag ‘n’ Zoom feature, you can simply drag a square over the area on a map you want zoom in on. It beats pushing the zoom button over and over. To enable this feature, head over to Google Maps Labs.
11. Scheduling a meeting can be tough. Re-scheduling a meeting can be torture. Trying to find a time when all the participants are available – blech. But by enabling Google Calendar’s Smart Rescheduler feature, you can make the process easier. Google scans through the calendars colleagues share with you and picks some of the best times to move your meeting to.
12. If you’re like me, you’re an old school video game nerd. Gmail is too. You can play a game of Old Snakey right from your Gmail account. Simply click the Settings icon from your Gmail account (it looks like a gear), select “Labs” and enable the Old Snakey option. By pressing Shift+7, you’ll now be able to launch the game. (Hint: If it doesn’t work for you, you probably need to enable “keyword shortcuts” in your general settings tab. Then refresh your browser.)
13. I often find myself overwhelmed sending emails, Gchat messages and texts at the same time. Enabling GMails SMS features, I can streamline the process. This allows you to send text messages the same way you send Gmail chat messages. Just go to Gmail labs and enable the SMS features.
14.A picture can save you a thousand keywords. With Google Goggles, a mobile app for the iPhone and Android systems, you can snap a pic and immediately get Google search results back on that item. For instance, take a photo of the label on a wine bottle and Google will return a whole bunch of search results back to your phone.