Google vice president John Hanke, formerly head of the company's Geo division (Google Maps, Google Earth, Street View, Places, etc) is now in charge of a smaller skunkworks team within Google called Niantic Labs, the first product of which was Google's "Field Trip" local recommendations app for Android, released on September 27.
Hanke revealed more about his goals for Field Trip and Niantic in general in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News published on Sunday, stating that Field Trip was just the first manifestation of "ubiquitous computing," or digital connectivity and information everywhere, but in the background. As Hanke explained:
When you're out walking with your family, you're not going to pause every 20 feet and do a Google search. So the notion is that you can have this process that runs in the background that knows something about where you are, and about your interests. It can proactively offer up information that can help you have a richer experience but in a way that's seamless and doesn't interrupt the flow of your activity...
When Field Trip pops up on your phone, you don't have to unlock the phone. A chime plays and it shows a card with very clear text. And to take it a step further, if you have a headset or Bluetooth, it will read the card to you.
That's kind of a new frontier -- figuring out when it's appropriate to have your applications proactively talk to you. It's not for everybody, but I love it. You can have the complete experience without ever removing the phone from your pocket.
Hanke also revealed Niantic Labs was named after a Gold Rush-era ship turned brothel now located in the foundation of the Transamerica Building in San Francisco. Read the full interview with the Mercury News here.