While it didn't produce as many grand innovations as AT&T's famed Bell Labs, the Google Labs project will still be missed.
For the past several years, Google's self-described "playground" has served as a test site for many Web applications that are now considered a staple of the Google portfolio, including Gmail, Google Calendars, Google Scholar and Google Maps. But this week Google announced it would soon shut down Google Labs to focus its energies more on its core business functions. In tribute to this wild and wacky digital playground, we've gone back through some of the Labs' projects and looked for ideas that may not have set the world on fire but were cool nonetheless.
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SLIDESHOW: The Best of Google Labs
Google City Tours: Ever land in a brand-spanking new city without any clue of local attractions? Google designed its Maps-based City Tours app to be your personal guide by giving you a suggested walking route that will bring you to some of your areas most popular attractions. For instance, entering "One Financial Center, Boston, MA" into the engine will give you a walking map that will take you to Paul Revere's house, the Boston Children's Museum, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, the Boston Public Library and more.
Google Body: If you ever find yourself needing to perform emergency surgery but you don't have a medical degree... OK, so we don't recommend using Google Body to figure things out. But we do recommend using Google Body as a terrific resource to search every aspect of the human body, from the outer parts to your slimy (but rather vital) innards. The 3D body search program relies on a technology called WebGL that is used to produce interactive 3D renderings.
Google Image Swirl: While Google Images has been a functional image search engine, its layout is somewhat lacking in pizzazz in this day and age. Google Image Swirl takes the image search format to the next generation, creating a series of related circles around an image that display different aspects of the word you're searching for. For example, typing in "Picasso" will give you a circle filled with pictures of some of his most famous works. Clicking on one of the pictures will produce another circle around the picture filled with related pictures. The idea behind the project is to make it easier to find pictures that are more closely related to one another, and it certainly succeeds.