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‘Labs’ arrive in Google app to let you experiment with features like pinch-to-zoom

Google app Smart Screenshot

For years, Google allowed users to try upcoming products and experimental features within existing products ahead of a wider release through a program called Labs, which has since been discontinued. Now, Labs is making a comeback through the Google app, bringing with it experimental features like pinch-to-zoom for search results.


Google shuts down question and answer site Aardvark

Aardvark has announced in a blog post this afternoon that Google has shut them down. For those of you who don’t quite remember Aardvark, a question and answer site, was acquired by Google for $50 million in 2010. Today, Aardvark is being closed, and the team will be moved to Google+ and other products.

We’ve been excited to share these lessons within Google over the past year, especially as part of the effort behindGoogle+.  It has been gratifying to see how well this project is doing — even in these early stages, Google+ has already become a great place to share knowledge online, eclipsing the original! — and there is much more to come very soon.  In this and other projects at Google, the Aardvark team remains committed to developing powerful tools for connecting people and improving access to information.

The closure of Aardvark comes along with Google’s closure of Labs we reported on last month. Google’s CEO Larry Page has gone on record saying Google is killing off smaller products, in order to put “more wood behind fewer arrows”. This is evident when Google killed Labs, Slide, and now Aardvark.

Update: Google has also announced the closing of Google Desktop.

Update x2: Google has posted the full run-down of what is being closed.

Continue after the break..


Google to shut down Android App Inventor


A demo of App Inventor

Last month, Google announced that the company will be shutting down Google Labs — a hub for the testing of new products. Google said that while most of the products were being shut down, a few products from Labs will be saved, but it appears the Android App Inventor, announced late last year, will not be one of them.

App Inventor was aimed at providing an educational bridge for people who wanted to create Android Apps but weren’t versed at Java. The app was even used at many camps to teach early programming.  It’s sad to see such a great educational tool go and we wonder if it is a sign of something bigger in the tools area or maybe a sign of Android divesture of Java. Luckily for those who don’t want to let go, the project will be open-sourced(via Hack Education) Expand

Google to close Labs website

Wall Street Journal is reporting Google is winding down their Labs website – a site where users can test new products. Last week, Larry Page said Google would put “more wood behind fewer arrows”, meaning they wouldn’t put as many resources behind smaller products. Some might consider Labs a smaller product. WSJ notes some popular Labs products:

Many popular products had their start in Google Labs, including Google Alerts, which send people email updates when the search engine indexes websites containing certain information or news; Google SMS, which allowed people to do a search on their mobile device by texting their query to “Google,” or 466453; and Google Maps, one of the most important Google assets, also got its start in the labs site, in 2005.

For those of you who use Labs this is a sad day … this is a new Google.

Google Maps for Android now features offline maps

Android users who downloaded the updated  Maps application today got a nice surprise.  Google Maps for Android now features offline viewing. To enable the new feature, simply navigate to the Labs section of the Maps application and enable the Download Map Area option. After this is enabled, each time you want to download maps for offline viewing you will need to visit a Place page, click the more button, and then select the option to store locally. Maps will then store a 10 mile radius, locally to your device.

Offline viewing is available for Android because of the way it displays the maps. Android uses a vector-based system for displaying map tiles, where the iPhone uses an image based. This means Android can pull maps using about 1/100th of the data the iPhone would. Maybe we’ll see a change to the iPhone’s Google Maps soon.

via TechCrunch

Google experimenting with web tool that converts Flash files to HTML5

Well, this is interesting… Google is advertising on its Google Labs page an experimental tool which aims to liberate web developers from the confines of Adobe’s Flash platform. They are calling it Swiffy (sweet) and its sole purpose is to convert Flash SWF files to HTML5. But make no mistake about it – this is about Apple’s iOS gadgets. Google itself says Swiffy lets you “reuse Flash content on devices without a Flash player (such as iPhones and iPads)”. Interesting Apple’s frenemy all of a sudden took it upon themselves to help port Flash content to Apple’s devices.

It’s a web-based tool and we’ve tried it on several relatively simple Flash animations, the ones usually seen running as annoying adverts on web sites. Surprisingly, Swiffy did quite a good job converting sample SWFs to HTML5, sans custom fonts that didn’t translate well into HTML5. Just don’t expect the latest Flash games and heavy project with lots of interactive features to port smoothly or at all. In fact, the search company is downplaying the importance of Swiffy, saying you shouldn’t expect miracles. “Swiffy currently supports a subset of SWF 8 and ActionScript 2.0, and the output works in all Webkit browsers such as Chrome and Mobile Safari,” the company noted.