Adult Play Space Ramps Up Creativity at Google - Innovate New Albany | New Albany, Ohio

Adult Play Space Ramps Up Creativity at Google

When Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page wanted to simulate the energy and vibe that the company had as a garage-based startup, he created Google Workshops, a cluster of high-tech workspaces that offers Google employees the tools, equipment and materials to try new ideas, express themselves and just plain have fun.

“There is a feeling here at Google that all good things start in a garage,” said Greg Butterfield, an engineering lab manager who oversees the workshops. “Larry wanted to create the same kind of environment he and Sergey had when they started Google — a sort of a playground or sandbox for pursuing their ideas.”

Tucked in an isolated corner of 4.3 million-square-foot headquarters, the workshops, with distinct areas for metal, wood, welding and electronics, are just one way Google is trying to stay relevant against competition from newer startups like Facebook and Groupon.

While company officials admit that the majority of projects built at the workshops are personal in nature, there have also been some work-related success stories. Engineers built one of the earliest prototypes of Google’s Android software at the workshops and a giant tricycle used for the company’s online mapping was created there.

“Innovation at Google comes in many forms—it can be an idea, a program or even a handmade prototype,” says Daniel Ratner, senior mechanical engineer of the Google Geo Team and one of the creators of the tricycle. “For me, it’s in a workshop with a table saw, 3D printer, TIG welder, vertical mill and a variety of raw materials. As a robotics enthusiast and mechanical engineer, these are the kinds of challenges and opportunities that bring me back to work every day.”

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