It isn’t every day that you get the chance to visit Google followed by Autodesk just days later, but earlier this week, that was just what happened. Nestled in Mountain View, within the famed Silicon Valley, our Future Problem Solving group was lucky enough to visit Googleplex, Google’s corporate headquarters. These places gave me a creative buzz and plenty of ideas to test out on my beach projects!
Starting off with a sneaky bike across the campus was an adventure within itself. Google’s iconic bikes and recreational facilities are representative of Google’s belief that ‘You can be serious without a suit’. This notion of a creative, productive and balanced company culture is the home to many of the most well-known creations used in our everyday lives. As our guides, George and Andrew said, one of the things that makes Google so great is that everyone feels like they can discuss and share ideas with everyone, no matter what position on the ‘ladder’ you held.
Next to the Google store and Visitor Center Beta, the sculpture garden was another sweet surprise! It features sculptures of the lollies and deserts from which Android OS version names are derived and was sure to bring a smile to my face!
Just being in and amongst the area was a surreal feeling. Everything was brightly coloured and unique, from the benches to employees driving around Raspberry Pi robots. The 20% philosophy means that employees spend 20% of their time working on a project they’re interested in, to either better systems in their workplace or beyond. This idea really appealed to me, simply because it makes so much sense! Not only do employees get to do what they love, but products like Gmail, created as a 20% project, are clear indicators of its success.
Out of everything at Google, from seeing driverless cars in action to finishing the trip off with frozen yoghurt in 100% compostable cups and spoons, ‘The Garage’ was easily the highlight for me. The workshop is full of anything you need to tinker with beliefs, practically an imagination station! Equipment includes rows of 3D printers, laser cutters and even play dough and sewing machines. The space was originally created for employees to work on their 20% projects, but soon grew to the state it’s at now. The Garage was something quite special. In fact, it all was. Just seeing the use and exploration of technology was amazing and so inspiring.
Next up was Autodesk. Lesser known to Google, but in no way less stunning. I’m sure I could’ve spent the whole day in the gallery, the relatively small space showcasing projects using technology in a creative and awe-inspiring light. Displays ranged from robotic arms and prosthetics using generative design for optimisation to my personal favourite project, 3D modelling of deteriorating coral.
All in all what took the top spot for me were the applications of biomimicry and machine-learning to many projects. The convergence of nature and technology on paper sounds completely logical, but seeing it in real life was out of this world! One project ‘Choe U-Ram’ was a Gold Insecta Lamp which mimics shapes and motion of insects. A phrase that caught my eye was ‘Darwin in the Machine’. This was used to discuss generative design and its manufacturing applications. Labelled the future of design, it allows inventors to optimise and maximise using evolutionary algorithms. How cool is that?
The past two weeks in the US were amazing, with Google and Autodesk just a small part of it. Although these places particularly had so much thought and ideas to offer, the Future Problem Solving International Conference, the centre of the trip, seemed to feel relevant where ever we went. Of course there isn’t enough space to recount everything we saw and did (probably end up as a novel if that was the case) but now, back home, I can’t wait to apply all of the new snippets of information I have gained into the beach context and beyond, and to explore the many questions I still have.