Google Wants Your Gadgets

JP Leider

Google wants your gadgets.

Until Nov. 1, the Mountain View, Calif.-based corporation is seeking submissions from students at colleges and universities nationwide in an effort to find the brightest ideas for the Google Gadget Awards.

A gadget is a desktop or Web-based program that executes a specific function, such as a calendar or a clock. Yahoo and Apple offer similar programs, known as widgets.

Judges with some celebrity in the tech and academic world, including the president of Stanford University and the editor in chief of Wired magazine, will rate gadgets in seven categories, which include “Best Overall Gadget” and “Gadget Most Likely to Help You Get a Date.”

Winners receive a trophy and recognition garnered from a winner’s list posted on Google’s home page.

Adam Sah, gadget architect for Google, described the contest as an attempt to reach college and university students and see what they can create.

“One of the things we saw earlier on when we first launched the gadget system is that authors tend to be younger and tend to have really different ideas about what they want to see,” he said. “I was surprised that two of our top gadget authors are 15 and 16 years old.”

Sah said there “is a lot of fame and opportunity” associated with doing something like the Gadget Awards.

“For not a lot of work, millions and millions and millions of people will know who you are and see what you’ve done,” he said. “That’s incredibly valuable, particularly for college students who are at the beginning of their careers and are trying to create something that makes them look different than somebody down the hall.”

Charles Swanson, faculty adviser to the student chapter of Association for Computing Machinery, said Google’s contest accomplishes several goals, namely exposing students to gadgets, providing Google with new ideas and helping Google identify new talent.

“The point is that creating such little gadgets is something that could be done by students who know a little about Internet programming, and lots of students know that,” he said.

Adam Bacchus, a computer science senior, likened the gadget contest to Google’s Image Labeler, an Internet-based “game” that pairs users to help index Google’s image database.

“Some people think it’s tricky of them to make a game – people who are less technically savvy don’t realize what Google is doing, using people to index their database for them,” he said. “If I was running a business and I came up with an idea like that, I think that would be a great way to cut the bottom line.”

Students interested in the contest should be aware of its rules, especially regarding the retention of code ownership.

While the rules state that any intellectual property rights will remain with the submitters, Google does have the right to “use, copy, reproduce, publish, modify and make available the entry to the public” for any purpose.

Esten Rye, a computer science senior and Computing Machinery’s vice president, said losing control over source code of a program can be both good and bad.

“I don’t think it’s so much an issue if you’re putting together some small little thing, but I find a trophy and a pat on the back not enough motivation to go and invest a lot of time designing a widget a lot of people would use,” he said.

In addition to Web-based gadgets, Google also is seeking desktop gadgets, which likely would work alongside Google Desktop.

In addition to widgets put out by Yahoo and Apple, Microsoft also is said to be implementing widget-like programs in the next version of Windows.

While a standard for all gadgets isn’t currently available, some students, such as Dustin Douglas, a computer engineering junior, said the future looks bright for widgets and gadgets.

“Especially if they found a way to make a standard where you could make a widget where it would work in Vista, your Google home page or (Macintosh) OS10 – that would be even more useful,” he said.