Google Sphere Offers A Strange Perspective On Search Results
Google sphere is commonly considered as one of Google’s Easter eggs, but it technically isn’t. In fact, along with certain other “Easter eggs” like Google gravity, sphere is just another experiment by the folks who run the MrDoob website. In any case, it is one of the most popular “modes of usage out there despite its unofficial status. And that’s for a good reason: you see at a glance what people from all around the world regard as “important,” or what may be the hottest issues of that moment or on that day.
The first time I saw Google Sphere, I remembered that 1998 film about a Michael Crichton novel, which of course was called ‘Sphere.’ A team of scientists (including Sharon Stone, back when Sharon Stone was still hot) investigate what appears to be an alien spacecraft lying a thousand feet deep in the Southern Pacific Ocean. Using careful dating calculations and by basically looking at how thick the surrounding coral growth is, the scientists realize the “spacecraft” has been sitting there previously untouched for the past 300 years. Upon entering the “spacecraft,” however, they discover that the “alien spacecraft” is actually man-made, and the words and labels on board are in English—made in USA, in fact. This startles the team, and what shocks them even more is the discovery of a huge, perfect sphere in the spacecraft’s cargo hold: suspended inexplicably a few feet above the ground as if unaffected by gravity, the sphere consisted of an impenetrable fluid surface that reflects the surrounding area but not people. If you’ve ever seen one of those old vampire movies in which Dracula stands before a mirror but the mirror does not reflect back the vampire’s reflection, the Sphere in the Crichton film is just the same, except the “aggressor” in this case is the “mirror.”
What is interesting about the sphere in the said film is that it “manifests” in reality whatever dark fears or apprehensions the humans have. For example, one of the female characters’ suicidal thoughts cause the sphere to manifest it in reality by triggering the detonation of the bombs they have installed. So in a way, Samuel Jackson and company do not have an objective “enemy,” but rather, their enemy are themselves.
In certain ways, Google Sphere is similar to the sphere in that film (or novel, whichever you prefer). When you use the search engine in Google Sphere mode, the results feel like they represent the collective consciousness of humanity —- after all, aren’t all those billions of web pages just tidbits and the entirety of the human experience? As the sphere slowly swirls and rotates, the search results and the buttons and hyperlinks bubbling in a miasma of algorithmic semi-chaotic order, doesn’t it seem, if you squint a little, a bit like the swamp of our collective consciousness?
Experimenting with Google Sphere
Looking at Google Sphere on a tiny 10.1-inch LCD monitor may not fully drive home the “awesomeness” I speak of. So I tried viewing it on a 19-inch screen on my desktop computer. But still, there was something “missing”—I felt that this nifty little trick of turning the search engine’s results into a swirling sphere of letters and numbers and hyperlinks could still be made much more breathtaking. So I wheeled the desktop computer to a place beside the living room’s 50-inch LED TV, made a few software adjustments with Windows 7, waited a few seconds then beheld the image on a larger screen. On a 50-inch high-definition monitor, using Google Sphere feels much more “palpable.” You feel like Tom Cruise’s character in Minority Report, gazing at a holographic “computer interface,” touching at buttons and hyperlinks and dragging and dumping files into the trash bin. But still, admittedly, the bigger the screen is, the better I presume would be the experience, especially if the said monitor had touch-screen functions that were as snappy as those of the Apple iPhone 4S or the new Samsung Galaxy S III.
But sadly, all I had was a 50-inch screen—still bigger than most setups, but still. I played with it for a while, just letting it all sink in. And besides, I was still not very eager to unplug the HDMI interface and return the desktop computer to its usual location, which was so far away from the screen.
Google Sphere with Images
Now, you won’t find these much often elsewhere on the internet, but there are many things you can do with this particular mode of Google search. If searching for textual information was awesome enough, try doing an image search and see what I mean. I googled “Scarlett Johannson” for example, and in an instant breathtaking images of Scarlett from her different movies or red carpet events began swirling in that distinct spherical fashion. Try different personalities to get a different mix of images. I also tried “Marilyn Monroe” and “that girl who played as Daenerys Targaryen in HBO’s Game of Thrones.” And the more you click on the “Search Images” button, the more pictures you get swirling in that beautiful, jaws-dropping way. Keep in mind that each image that makes up the sphere is a working link, just like a normal search result.
Google Sphere on Google Sphere
Just for curiosity’s sake, I also tried googling “google sphere” while on google sphere. The result was slightly funny, if you ask me. It’s like staring at a hall of mirrors, where you see your reflection all the way into infinity. For more fun: try entering your own name in the search bar and see what happens.
Google Sphere is cool enough to deserve a permanent place among the Google Tricks Pantheon, much like what they did with the playable Google Pacman doodle when it turned out that it was immensely popular. I’m sure there are many people like me who would like seeing our search results not as a flat, straightforward list in the appropriate order of relevance, but as a more discoverable and mysterious format.
But then again, I could understand why search engine optimization professionals would recoil in horror at that idea—with the search results in a swirling three-dimensional sphere, the rankings of websites based on keywords would become meaningless. A higher ranking website would seem equal or just among the needles in that rotating haystack, so how can one optimize any keyword in that mode?
But for the meantime, you can access it the usual way: by typing the phrase “google sphere” in the search bar, hitting “I’m Feeling Lucky,” then crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.