Google celebrates Alexander Calder with HTML 5 doodle

22 Jul 2011

Google has celebrated US modern artist Alexander Calder, who is best known for creating the mobile sculpture, with an interactive doodle that responds to physical motion via an accelerometer or by the move of your mouse. It is also Google’s first doodle designed on an HTML5 canvas.

Calder, who was born on 22 July 1898 and who died in November 1976, is famous for inventing mobile sculptures as well as acclaimed toys, paintings, lithographs, tapestries, jewelry and household objects.

The son of talented artists, Calder posed nude for his father Alexander Stirling Calder’s sculpture The Man Cub, which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York. His mother, Nanette Lederer Calder, was also an acclaimed artist and instrumental in the development of UC Berkeley Art Museum.

Jered Wierzbicki, software engineer at Google, said the inspiration for the mobile sculpture doodle came from a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, where Calder’s objects “all beautifully balanced and proportioned, moving gently in the air currents like a whimsical metal forest.”

Wierzbicki said such abstract art can translate well into the software world and there was no better opportunity to present creativity than through the first use by Google of HTML5 canvas to create a doodle for its search homepage.

“This is Google’s first doodle made entirely using HTML5 canvas, so you need to use a modern browser to interact with it. It runs a physics simulation on the mobile’s geometry, and then does real-time 3D rendering with vector graphics. Only recently have browsers advanced to the point where this is possible.

“I like to think Calder would have appreciated today’s doodle, since we’re setting up shapes and abstractions and letting them act on their own. Hint: try it out on a laptop with an accelerometer!”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years