Area 120 is a product incubator within Google that was started to allow employees to work on experimental projects, like the recently launched Uptime app. Now, Google is letting anyone sign up to its Early Access Program and try out these apps through a new central website, which also grants you early access to upcoming Area 120 experiments.
Alongside opening Area 120 to the public, the team also unveiled a new experiment, called Advr, which is a cube-like ad format that allows video ads to run in a virtual reality environment. Viewers can engage with the cube by tapping on it or staring at it for a few seconds, which then opens a video player where the user can watch the ad. The team behind the application explains that concept of mobile VR ad format came about from hearing developers who wanted ways "to make money to fund their VR applications."
The team goes on to add that it wants VR ad formats to be easy for developers to implement, native to VR, easy to customise, and non-intrusive for users. It will further work on this with developers across VR products that include Google Cardboard, Daydream as well as Samsung VR. An early stage SDK for Advr is available for VR developers to play around with by filling out a form.
The Area 120 team earlier this week made its Uptime video sharing app available to all iOS users in the US. The app lets you share YouTube videos with your friends and comment and chat on them as well, and also lets you see the videos being watched by your friends and vice versa.
Google launched Area 120 back in 2016 in a bid to motivate its employees to start their own venture. The initiative was in part an incubator and part new take on the 20 percent time programme, which essentially allows employees to spend a day of the week, or 20 percent time, on working on side projects. Now that it is open to the public, one can sign up through the new website to have a look at projects like Uptime, Tailor, Grasshopper and more. TechCrunch notes that not all projects are public-facing, and that some are used internally with select testers or via invite-only basis.