Google turns Heathrow into testing lab

Google Space aims to entertain passengers waiting at Heathrow, and will also allow the search firm to road-test new products

Google has taken its first foray into the physical world with the launch of an Internet cafe-style computing booth in London's Heathrow Airport.

The temporary installation, termed Google Space, consists of ten Samsung laptops in the public lounge of Terminal One at London's main airport.

The stand, launched on Tueday morning, will be staffed by at least two Google employees from 0700 to 1900 every day for the duration of the trial, which will run until 19 December. Google staff will be flown in from around the world to man the station.

To see a gallery of images of Google Space click here.

Although the search specialist claims the project is primarily about helping travellers use their time more productively at the airport, it admitted that Google Space will also act as a physical testing lab for its new applications.

"Google Space will help people make wasted time more useful. And for Google, Space is a live lab where people can test our most-up-to-date products, and give us their feedback, "said Lorraine Twohill, Google's European director of marketing.

At the launch of the London GooglePlex last week, the company made much of its interest in developing wireless services — citing the wealth of wireless expertise in Europe compared to its US home. However, Google Space has no Wi-Fi capability at this time, according to one of the project's founders, product marketing manager Andy Ku. "If enough people ask us for wireless we may seriously think about doing it at a later date," Ku said.

To see a gallery of images of the London GooglePlex launch click here.

Although the company chose Heathrow for the project, other areas which attract large numbers of people with time on their hands were considered, including train stations and doctors' surgeries. If the pilot proves successful, Google may roll-out Space projects in some other locations.

Google is not the first purely online company to experiment with a physical presence in the high-street. Travel company has Internet kiosks in a number of UK airports while eBay has similar devices pushing its auction services, including one in London's Tottenham Court Road tube station.