by Kristin Burnham

Google’s Most Innovative Projects

Jun 29, 20124 mins

Google unveiled two new products yesterday at its I/O developer conference: the Nexus 7 tablet and Project Glass. Here's a look at how some of Google's other famous projects got their start.

In the last several years, Google has developed and launched a number of game-changing products and services. From analytics to augmented reality, here’s a look at nine of its most innovative products.

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1. Google Books Library Project, 2004

Google Books Library Project

The Google Books Library Project, also known as Google Book Search, lets you preview excerpts from books and bibliographic information. Or, if the book is out of copyright, it lets you view and download the entire book. Google is currently working with several major libraries to include their collection of books in search.

Google’s Library Project has had its fair share of controversy since it launched in 2004: Some publishers have filed suit to stop it because they don’t believe that a third-party should be able to copy and index copyrighted work.

2. Google Analytics, 2005

Google Analytics

Google Analytics grew from the acquisition of Urchin Software, a Web statistics analysis program, in April 2005. Seven months later, Google released its self-branded offering, Google Analytics, to anyone who wanted to sign up. One week after its launch, sign-ups were temporarily suspended because of high demand.

Today, the product is offered to anyone, and is the most widely used Website statistics service.

3. Google Earth, 2005

Google Earth

Google Earth originated as EarthViewer 3D from CIA-funded company Keyhole, which Google acquired in 2004. Google re-released the product as Google Earth in 2005.

Today, you can use Google Earth to explore the ends of the earth and everything in between and even beyond, from the depths of the ocean to 3D buildings, Mars, the Moon and more.

4. Google Docs, 2006

Google Docs

Google Docs originated from two product acquisitions: Writely, a Web-based word processor; and Spreadsheets, which Google acquired from 2Web Technologies. On June 6, 2006, Google launched Google Labs Spreadsheets, the first public component of what would eventually become Google Docs.

Today, the Google Docs suite of apps includes documents, presentations, spreadsheets, forms, drawings, tables and scripts—all of which support collaboration.

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5. Android, 2007

Google Android

In 2005, Google acquired Android, Inc., a little-known company that operated secretly and disclosed only that it was working on software for mobile phones. Two years later, at the first Open Handset Alliance consortium, Android was unveiled as a mobile device platform built on the Linux kernel version 2.6.

Several years later, Android is one of the leading mobile platforms.

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6. Google Street View, 2007

Google Street View

Google Street View, which launched in 2007, is a feature in Google Maps and Google Earth that shows panoramic views along both city and rural streets worldwide.

The images are taken by a fleet of specially adapted cars and stitched together to form one complete image. Areas not accessible by car, such as ski slopes, are sometimes covered by Google tricycles or snowmobiles.

Today, you can tour such areas as the Amazon River, the Swiss Alps, historic Italy and more.

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7. Google Goggles, 2009

Google Goggles

At its search event in December 2009, Google unveiled its foray into visual search with a product called Google Goggles. Goggles, which today is still in beta, is a downloadable image- recognition application for mobile devices.

If you use the app to take a picture of a famous landmark, for example, Goggles will search for more information about it. If you use it to scan a barcode, and it will search for information on the project.

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8. Google Nexus 7, 2012

Google Nexus 7 tablet

At this year’s Google I/O developer conference, Google announced the Nexus 7 tablet, a direct competitor to Amazon’s Kindle Fire.

The Nexus 7 is priced at $199, features a 7-inch display, 1280×800 resolution and is the only device that currently runs on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Google plans to start shipping the tablet in July, but you can pre-order it now from the Google Play store.

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9. Project Glass, 2014

Google Project Glass

Also at this year’s I/O developer conference, Google revealed more details about Project Glass, which it first announced in April. Project Glass, an augmented reality head-mounted display that will be available to U.S. developers only, for now, for $1,500. It is slated to become available to the public in 2014.

The glasses resemble a pair of normal eyeglasses, but the lense is replaced by a heads-up display, which presents data without requiring you to look away from visual viewpoints. Check out the skydiving demo video.