Last year, Google ran an interesting experiment in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC): it used Google+ to attempt to redefine the theater-going experience using an online stage. It was called Midsummer Night's Dreaming. You can read about it here and there. It sounds a bit expensive - especially the part that involves new characters - to be easily replicated, but (I think) at the very least opens thought-provoking avenues to complement projects such as "theater/opera/dance at the movies". With 110,000 unique visitors the weekend of the project and an increase by over 700% of the number of followers of the RSC Google+ page, the project was deemed a success.
Google hit a home run with Gmail many years ago. I also liked Google Reader, but that was discontinued. Google Analytics is also a great service that receives little attention in the mainstream media and has been around for a while. So what sort of services has Google put forward in the recent past? Google Drive has been overshadowed by Dropbox. Google+ never turned into the counterweight to Facebook that some people (including me) hoped it would become. Google Glass will remain for nerds until it is combined with statement-making glasses or sunglasses, if that ever happens. While Apple has been able to repeatedly bring innovative products to market, Google has been closer to coasting on its reputation while securing singles or doubles after the home runs of the past, although some of its marketing campaigns have been very favorably received (see here and there, although you have to wonder if part of the hype isn't due to some of those writers' desire to be hired by Google.)
It's true, though, that Google won the 2012 Print Advertising Competition. Maybe they've become better at marketing than at putting out new, groundbreaking services. Or perhaps Google+ is carving out a niche for itself in the interface between art and technology: another interesting project is the partnership between Google and Tate Modern, This Exquisite Forest. From the Tate website: "Taking as the starting point a series of short animation sequences created by artists represented in Tate’s collection, users of the website and visitors to the installation are invited to draw and animate new sequences and thus continue the ‘seeds’ begun by the artists. As more sequences are added, the videos dynamically branch out and evolve, forming multiple new visual narratives."
Below are some excellent tips from Google's Chief Creative Officer Robert Wong to further one's creativity, courtesy of Fast Company.
I also loved his talk for the Future of Storytelling summit. This video was posted by "Future of Storytelling". Please upvote the video on YouTube if you like it!
Google needs to do a lot more about Google+ (or any other service it is currently working on) for it to stop the perception its best innovations are behind it. (If people liked wearing glasses, contact lens manufacturers wouldn't be making so much money...) One way might be to reposition Google+ as an online venue for ephemeral discussions in response to an event or talk or video. I would imagine, for instance, that it would make a great tool for discussions after NTLive theater broadcasts (broadcasts of live videotapings of certain London plays over the UK and the US) or GlobeOnScreen (a similar idea for Shakespeare's Globe company). But it might need far more sophisticated tools - especially comment display tools - than what is currently available. As an example, you could have a situation - in the "chat room after broadcast of theater play in movie theaters" scenario - where people type comments into comment boxes and the comments that are up-voted appear in bigger font, gathering more attention (similarly to having someone at a party who a lot of people gravitate toward). The comments would show up on the whole screen so that they would be arranged two-dimensionally instead of being stacked on top of each other. My feel is that the comments would need to be written, because Internet connections might not always support video chat involving so many different people and tech glitches would be more frustrating if the whole system relies on video. But I might be wrong.
Then you could arrange replies to the upvoted comments as spokes to the "hubs" made by the main comments. Some layers might need to be hidden if the comment chain reaches a certain length. The user could click on another comment hub to participate in another discussion. (I guess you'd need a system to sift through the comments quickly to see if someone else already made your comments, although repeating other people's point doesn't seem to stop most blog commenters today. But if you want to connect with other people who share your opinion on a given show, you need to be able to find them quickly.) Providing a forum for Google users to interact as a one-time-thing based on a shared experience like theater or a music event, where users would presumably remain civil to each other, using cutting-edge visualization tools for those comments, might not be transformational on a large scale, but could be an idea worth pursuing.