Arcade Fire and Google say you can go home again

In a strange, and yet undeniably innovative, marketing maneuver, the people over at Google have teamed up with indie giants Arcade Fire in an attempt to get the young folks interested in Chrome. And it just might be working.

Up until now, Chrome has gone largely under-utilized and mostly ignored by Google's many users, myself included. This is probably because there doesn't seem to be much of a point to it. Like the iPad, it seems to be just another, hyped up, trendy version of an older model that's not yet broken, and therefore really doesn't need any fixing. But Google's collaboration with Arcade Fire and director Chris Milk just might have changed the way we're all looking at Chrome (if not the way we're looking at Arcade Fire...getting into a commercial bed with Google, guys, really?)

If you haven't seen this yet, you're in for a mid-day treat. The Wilderness Downtown is an interactive experience, created in Chrome, set to "We Used to Wait" off the recently dropped The Suburbs. To begin, you're asked to enter the address of your childhood home (which is then entered into Google Earth) and the journey begins. The experience combines live-feed images of your old 'hood with black and white animation of a running figure and a flock of dark-winged birds...all set to Arcade Fire's ode to hometown blues. At certain points, the viewer is asked to interact, by drawing stencil-like images on an interactive drawing tool, which are then incorporated into the movie. If this all sounds a bit is. You should just go ahead and try it out yourself.

There are a few technical bugs in the whole experience, which was built using HTML5. For one, the film won't run well in any browser by Chrome (which makes sense, and yet sort of defeats the purpose if the point of this exercise is to draw new Chrome users.) For another, if your childhood abode isn't available in Google Street View, the whole experience will sort of be lost on you. (Sorry, swamp-dwellers.) Also, be forewarned that the Wilderness Downtown is experienced through a series of pop-up windows that flash across your screen frenetically. At first try, I thought I had inadvertently given my computer an Arcade Fire-induced virus and started frantically trying to close the whole shebang. Don't worry, it's part of the film and you have not introduced an insidious indie music virus into your company's hardware.

It yet remains to be seen if this clever ploy will actually convert any new users to Chrome (my own jury's still out) but a journey through the Wilderness Downtown makes for a trippy stroll down Google's version of your personal memory lane. 

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