In a different universe, the idea of a Google mobile research lab would be an excuse for a weekend romp. But this is Google. And in Google’s world, no idea is too wacky to pursue. After all, they are the world’s biggest internet tech firm with limitless cash flowing around to burn as they deem fit.
However, the pitch from the Google Mobile research lab points to a need to do something novel, serious and fun at the same time. What they are saying is they want to dump the world of algorithms for the real world. To connect to real people. And see how real people use all the those Google products the world is using. That sounds like a very reasonable proposition if the real world can be constricted to just a few cities. Or if the real world can be covered in just two months.
According to a report, the Google mobile research lab is going to be a van that is fitted to look like a real research lab in its Mountain View headquarters. The Google Mobile research lab would be making stops in cities like Chapel Hill in North Carolina, Clemson in South Carolina, Atlanta in Georgia, Boulder in Colorado, Salt Lake city in Utah, Reno in Nevada, and South Lake Tahoe in California; spending between two and four days in each city, starting from the 18th of March.
The Google mobile research lab would be parked in strategic places like colleges, universities, libraries, parks and local Google offices . About 500 volunteers would be invited inside the van. While inside, the Google researchers would observe, prod and record how these volunteers use Google products. Each session would not be more than 90 minutes or less than 15 minutes, at the end of which, each participant is given a gift card and Google T-shirt in appreciation of their time.
Normally, Google’s public researches are mostly done in the immediate vicinity of Google headquarters in the San Francisco Bay area. The thinking being that, people in other parts of the world live and behave differently. That is an easy assumption to make seeing that San Francisco Bay area residents are generally more affluent. This is how Laura Granka, a lead Google researcher on Internet search and maps puts it:
“We are trying to understand the whole end-to-end experience, which is why we are trying to get out to more locations and see more people so we can gather more context.”
Ultimately Google hopes that the Google mobile research lab would be a success. Because they aim to expand the scope to other cities in the United States later this year; and hopefully extending it to other countries around the world.
Real live research is a good thing in every respect. But if you look at some of Google’s best products like search, Gmail, YouTube and maps, no mobile research like this was needed to make them happen. How consumers behave towards digital products and services can easily be gleaned through the normal way of watching the stats on a computer screen. Maybe, Google is hoping the Google mobile research lab would give them an extra edge in the race for dominance. Or at the very least, show the world that Google is just as humane as the corner store where ordinary people buy their provisions.
photo credits: abcnews.com; mynews4.com