8 Cool Google Labs Projects Spared the Axe

After Google announced Google Labs would be closing, several experimental products under development were killed. Here's a look at some that were spared from the executioner's axe.


After Google announced in July that Google Labs would be closing, several experimental products under development were killed, including ones that had been hyped during their original launch: Aardvark, Fast Flip, and Google Notebook.

But Google has spared others (for now) from the executioner's axe, and these have been "graduated" into their own sites or are in the process of being spun off. Here are the ones that we think are worthy of your attention.

Best of Google Labs: A Retrospective

The 10 Coolest Experiments from Google Labs


App Inventor

What is it: A toolkit enabling you to quickly make simple Android apps.

App Inventor was originally designed as an educational program to teach children the basics of programming apps. It quickly became adopted by a user community that expanded its capabilities so that more sophisticated Android apps can be made with it -- in fact, some apps made with App Inventor are available in the Android Market. Google actually announced their decision to cease further official development on App Inventor, but they have assured the project will be released to its community as an open- source project.


Google Body

What is it: A site where you can zoom in on a high-resolution, 3D model of a human body, viewing its internal organs.

Google Body can be considered akin to a human body map version of Google Earth, and you can readily imagine the educational value of such a service. But Google will soon no longer officially continue to develop it. Although they're not killing it, like App Inventor, they plan to spin it off to the open-source community.


Google Correlate

What is it: A tool that charts out correlations between keywords you enter, mapped over time, based on Web search activity on Google.

Google Correlate won't settle the whole "correlation does not imply causation" argument, but it is nonetheless fun to tinker around with for trivial pursuits. Plus, anything mapped out in a pretty chart looks authoritative, no matter how ridiculous the search term is.


Google Moderator

What is it: An online tool that lets you create a moderated discussion forum.

You come up with a discussion topic -- write a catchy, descriptive headline and short description. Participants interested in this discussion submit questions, and they can vote on which questions they want to see answered most by you (or others you have granted access to respond).

We're somewhat surprised that Google is keeping this service running, because its concept takes some explaining, and its appeal might be too much of a niche. In theory, we can imagine the usefulness of Google Moderator for your work if you need to set up a tech support or help forum, or to help organize a Q&A session about a project among your co-workers.


Google Public Data Explorer

What is it: A tool that charts datasets over specific time periods.

Like Google Correlate, Google Public Data Explorer takes information and presents it in chart form. In this case it takes public information (such as economic and public health data) and maps out their evolution over time. For example, you can follow the most current and recent history of flu trends around the world. Some of these chart graphics are animated. You can also upload your own datasets described in the Dataset Publishing Language (DSPL), packaged as a *.zip file, to Google Public Data Explorer, and it will generate visualizations that you can then publish online for others to see and use.


Google Shared Spaces

What is it: A tool for running a collaborative space that includes a gadget you can embed on a Web page.

Google Shared Spaces is kind of a spin-off of the once-hyped and now dead Google Wave, because it uses the same gadget technology as Wave. There are more than 50 pre-made gadgets you can choose from to use for collaboration among a group of people (these include activities such as jointly mapping travel destinations, drawing flowcharts, or sharing a whiteboard). If you have JavaScript writing skills, you can create your own gadget.

There have not been any apparent updates (i.e. new gadgets) to Google Shared Spaces for several months now, but we think it would be a shame if this last vestige of the once promising Google Wave became abandoned, then shut down. However, this former Google Labs product seems like it would work well if incorporated into Google+.



What is it: An online tool that converts Adobe Flash *.swf files to HTML5.

Swiffy does pretty much what it promises, though with varying results of success. Of course, this tool is meant to help Flash designers conveniently re-use their assets for the iPhone, iPad, and any other device that shuns Adobe's interactive multimedia platform. This is one of those "try it, it's free, you have nothing to lose if it doesn't work for you" services that we're glad Google is still keeping around.


Google Transliteration

What is it: An online translator that converts Roman characters into the phonetic equivalent of another language, as you type.

The difference between this tool and Google Translate is that as you type out a word in Roman characters, as you would speak it, Google Transliteration turns it into the word of another language. For example, you don't type "good afternoon" to convert this into Japanese characters (Kanji). Instead, you type out the way you would speak this in Japanese ("konnichiwa" or a close-enough phonetic spelling of what it would sound like), and Google Transliteration will show the Kanji characters for this phrase.

Google Transliteration supports 23 languages, including Arabic, Chinese and Hebrew. It is also a simple text editor, allowing you to change the font, font size, font styles, font color, paragraph justification, and indention, and to insert bullet or number lists. The Google Transliteration editor is already built into Blogger and Gmail.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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