August 02, 2012
Amanda Schnieders, Kauffman Foundation
The House That Google Built: An Afternoon in Google's Fiber Space
When you walk into Google's Fiber Space, you can't help but notice a certain glow. The luminescent screens that cover almost every wall of the space burn brightly through the sheer colored walls of the complex. There's something alive about this place.
Along with Google's unveil of the Fiber TV package on July 26, Google also introduced Kansas City, Mo. to the new playhouse in Westport. This space is open to the public Sun-Fri 12-8 p.m. and Sat 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. without reservation.
The "house" as the space ultimately feels is split into five areas--Welcome, The Story of Fiber, Engage, Recharge, and the Fiber Space Lounge. The Welcome area ushers you into the space, providing you with your trusty pamphlet of information and layout. They also urge you to attach a nametage to your shirt that allows you to fill in the blank at the end of "Let's do this for...".
Next up is The Story of Fiber, the nuts and bolts of the demo space where the Googlers lay out all the information about what exactly Google Fiber does. They get the heavy language out of the way first, which leaves much more time for fun and toys in the Fiber Space.
Passing the Google TV boxes and Chromebooks, you finally see that rainbow-colored bunny Google has chosen as their fiber mascot. Surrounding it is the race track of colored cars that was the model for Google's Introducing Google Fiber video. The cars really do move on the command of visitors who push the buttons of blue, green, red and yellow to get the machines around the winding track. This area is also lined with Google TVs. Their clarity is somewhere between the blinding glow of another reality and the clearest picture I've ever seen. Once again, the place feels alive.
Entering into the Engage portion of Google's house, you'll find the interactive presentation of Google Fiber. Partnering with KU Medical Center, Kansas City Kansas Public Schools and Sporting KC, Google has provided live teleconferences with each of the entities--teleconferences that Fiber Space visitors can participate in themselves.
Here, you can discuss your daily diet with a dietician, whose connection is as clear as if she were in the same room. Teachers from the Kansas City area speak with visitors about schoolwork, curriculum and present mini-lessons. During my visit, a mother and daughter were discussing the anxieties of entering high school with a sixth grader teacher from Arrowhead Middle School, the same teacher who had taught the girl not two years earlier.
Finally, one of the many Googlers on staff told me about the teleconferences with the players and staff of Sporting KC. I was unable to witness one of their conferences, as these are limited to certain times during the day when Google sets up interview with specific people. Staff and players are not as readily available in their offices all day long.
I have to admit, I was surprised by the reality of such connectivity. But I wasn't done yet. The Fiber Space is decorated all over in small details of Kansas City. The wall of sports cards might have been my favorite. From one way, the cards are angled so that you see all Chiefs players. Take a few steps down, and you'll look back to see a long array of Royals baseball cards. Sporting KC paraphernalia decorates several couch areas, while chandeliers made of shuttlecocks decorate the Recharge area. Google has taken good care to make sure Kansas Citians feel at home in this space.
Finally, the tour leads you to the most important part of the house. The Recharge area is the place where Kansas City residents can pre-register their neighborhood for Google Fiber. The list of neighborhoods that are rallying for Google Fiber are displayed on huge, wall-long screens that allow residents to keep track of just how many people their neighborhood might still need to make sure the fiber is in their future.
Still, if you're not fully satisfied, Google provides you with s'mores brownies, trailmix and ginger peach tea for your refreshment. The ease and openness of the Space makes me think I could've asked to take home almost anything and they probably would have let me--almost anything.
Beyond the glow of the big screens and the refreshments and super-sized bunnies, Google manages to provide exactly what they promised--a look at exactly what Google Fiber can do for you and your neighbors.