Back in 2003, six years after the Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google, and a year before it first became publicly traded, Wired magazine asked four designers, including the likes of Shepherd Fairey, how they would redesign Google.com.
The concepts range from the insane (a version of Google that just coughs up declassified conspiracy theory documents every time you hit the ‘I Feel Lucky’ button) to the prophetic (a reimagining of Google that looks almost identical to Wolfram Alpha). But no one came closer to guessing what Google would be like in 10 years than Ideo.
IIlustrated by an Ikea-like cartoon, Ideo’s concept was that Google should recreate itself, not as a mere search engine, but as a physical button that lives on any number of devices, able to respond to your voice-based searches on the fly. “The Google button,” Ideo wrote. “It’s your trusted link to relevant information anywhere.” For example, when you’re grocery shopping, you might wonder aloud, ‘What is mascarpone?,’ press the Google button on your shopping cart handle, and immediately have the question answered for you. Or you might press the Google button on your TV remote and ask “Are there any Westerns on?” Google would handle the rest, flipping you to a channel playing Rawhide reruns. And so on.
Obviously, Google never became a physical button that exists on all our gadgets. That’s because it didn’t need to. Although they were still four years away when Ideo made their prediction, smartphones eventually came along, which allowed people to essentially carry any kind of button they wanted along with them. But physicality aside, everything else about Ideo’s prediction on where Google should end up seems eerily on point.
Today, Google offers real-time, contextual voice search which works pretty much exactly the way Ideo shows. We all take for granted that we can Google something on our shopping list, or get the answer to our kid’s questions, anywhere we are in the real world, just by pressing a button and asking a question out loud.
Google also lives on our TV remotes, and can program our televisions. And from a visual standpoint, something very similar to Ideo’s Google button is probably the central UI element that informs Google’s Material Design ethos: the Action Button.
Yeah. We’d call Ideo’s prediction a slam dunk, wouldn’t you?