Google I/O 2015: Inside the developer show turned theme park

Jungle gyms, unlimited candy and free toys. Those might sound like the things that make up the stuff of childhood dreams, but really, they're just par for the course at this annual technology summit for grown adults.
By Rachel King, Staff Writer on
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Google I/O 2015

SAN FRANCISCO---Google isn't known to be a company that shies away from putting on a splashy event.

Given that the Internet giant gone so far (or high) to employ skydivers to introduce Google Glass, one might wonder if the Goog could ever outdo itself.

Maybe not, but that doesn't stop the tech titan from turning mountains of cash into a two-day pop-up conference that looks more like a glorified playground than a ho-hum developer conference.

Google I/O

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Security Upgrade

Upon entry this year, returning attendees were faced with some security news right off the bat -- in the form of metal detectors and brigades of security guards on each level, an unusual site for many local employees and members of the media.

Google I/O

Additionally, all attendees were required to wear not only a name badge with photo ID, but also two wrist bands overnight and for the duration of the conference -- one of which was said to host an RFID chip, although I was never once asked to actually use it for anything.

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Community Guidelines

Google has had its fair share of backlash as of late, fending off criticism regarding the diversity (or lack thereof) in its workforce and the creep factor that became synonymous with Glass.

This year, Google is covering all of its bases before anyone can even get upstairs.

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Lounge Talk

With all of the serious rules and security business out of the way, the second floor gave way to an arrangement of multi-use spaces that could have been Willy Wonka's factory if Oompa Loompas made mobile apps instead of candy.

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More than just 'Cardboard'

Google's interior design crew certainly outdid themselves -- and arguably any other brand that has rented Moscone conference center space, constructing sandbox talk and fireside chat rooms that could double as rentals on Airbnb.

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DIY Mobile Apps

Some stations had me questioning whether or not I was at an event thrown by Google or Pinterest. (The exposed lightbulbs alone are worthy for a DIY marquee sign.)

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Paper Tablets

Adult coloring books have recently become a trendy activity. (No, really, it's a thing.)

This isn't quite the same thing, but developers had free range to color Sharpies, markers, pencils and paper (yes, paper!) drawing, hmm, tablets for those analog first drafts.

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Popcorn O'Clock

For better or worse, free food has become some sort of demanded right in Silicon Valley. I/O certainly fueled that fire, and one didn't have to look far if he or she was peckish.

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Yogurt-covered vices

Overheard near this station: "The yogurt-covered pretzels are my vice."

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Ice Cream O'Clock

When the devs come down from that salt-and-sugar high of popcorn, candy and trail mix (yeah, that was there too, but who wants that??), Google rolled out the ice cream carts stocked with childhood favorite Otter Pops and San Francisco's signature frozen treat, It's-It ice cream sandwiches.

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Future Android treat?

To top it all off, sno-cones too? No, not exactly.

In the exact opposite fashion of hidden Mickeys, Android was out in full force in every fashion possible on the I/O show floor, from 10-foot tall sculptures to pint-sized figurines. This iteration was trotted out in front of the gift shop (again, really). But given the sugary aesthetic, might this be a clue to a future iteration of Android when it gets down to "S"?

(Either way, we'll be waiting awhile given we still don't know what "M" in Android M represents yet.)

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Playgrounds for Adults

As depicted in the movie The Internship with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson (or even HBO's Silicon Valley), tech companies are often lampooned for the stereotype of building campuses with more play areas than offices for serious work.

This setting lends a bit of credence.

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Obviously this activity requires a bit of teamwork, a skill important in any workplace.

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Mobile Gaming

Mobile gaming might be the way of the future, but when presented with old-school arcade games, it's like moths to flames.

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Food Coma

I mean, what else did you expect after the sugar rush and all of that strenuous activity on the jungle gym?

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Develop, Engage, & Earn

Of course, there was SOME work getting done, as seen in this sandbox talk (surprisingly, no real sand given all of the other playground touches...) hosted by Google's internal developer and engineering leads.

And while this particular chat was overflowing with attendees looking on, many of the sessions around this year's theme "Develop, Engage, & Earn" were webcast.

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Wait for it...

Like Googlers, San Franciscans often have to fend off a number of different assumptions and stereotypes -- one being that SFers just seem to LOVE lining up for virtually anything.

I/O proved to be no different, as demonstrated by this winding long line for...

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Android Star

...this pint-sized Android action figure that unfortunately looks more like a rejected sprite from Rainbow Brite's backup crew at the Star Sprinkles mines. (Maybe it's just me, I don't know...)

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