In one of the more bizarre mash-ups involving Web-based maps, browsers and indie rock music, Google has teamed with a director and the band Arcade Fire to create a sort of do-it-yourself movie that takes a wistful look at childhood.
Where REM's "Stand" provided an upbeat soundtrack for '80s alt-rock, Arcade Fire has employed more melancholy backdrops for people getting through the daily grind.
This was never more apparent in "We Used to Wait," a wistful tune from the collective's new album "The Suburbs." The track is accompanied by an HTML5-based interactive short called "The Wilderness Downtown."
The project was created by writer/director Chris Milk and Google for the search engine's Chrome Experiments Website.
Here is how Thomas Gayno from Google's Creative Lab described it:
"It features a mash-up of Google Maps and Google Street View with HTML5 canvas, HTML5 audio and video, an interactive drawing tool, and choreographed windows that dance around the screen."
The movie hogs processing power, so users would do well to close out e-mail, other applications and browser windows to air the movie.
As Gayno noted, the project was built with Chrome in mind, "so it's best experienced in Chrome's beta or stable builds." Indeed, the project crashed often for several users.
When users access the movie, they are asked to click a link and provide the home address of where they grew up. Google Maps surfaces options that users can choose. Once the film loads this data, users can click "Play."
The experiment quickly opens 8 miniaturized browser windows and shows a figure running through a city street to the tune of "We Used to Wait."
One window opens up to a flock of 3D birds flying overhead, which are then seen flying over real photographic imagery of the neighborhood a user provided from Google Street View.
Street View spins and fades away to another browser window asking users to "write a postcard of advice to the younger you that lived there then."
Double-clicking this invite lets users write a note in digital script with the mouse or keyboard, powered by a Scalable Vector Graphic drawing tool. Before you know it, you're watching a multipaned movie personalized for you unfolding on the screen.
Wired has provided a look at the experiment here.
The experiment, a nod to a future where more interactive Web browsing becomes possible thanks to HTML5 and other Web technologies, is the perfect tribute for Chrome's second birthday, which is Sept. 2.
In two short years, the browser has attracted 70 million users worldwide, a 7.5 percent market share (Net Applications) and is on the sixth build, which features autofill and other perks.
Not bad for a 2-year-old browser. It will be interesting to see how Chrome adoption picks up when Chrome OS netbooks arrive this fall.