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Google's Calder Doodle Reacts to a Moving Laptop

A fully HTML5 doodle marking the sculptor's 113th birthday spins and sways.

Google is commemorating the 113th birthday of sculptor Alexander Calder with a new, funky doodle that replaces the company logo with one of Calder's mobile sculptures. Like many previous Google doodles, there's also a hidden Easter egg feature, and you'll need an accelerometer-equipped laptop to find it.

The use of the representation of one of Calder's more famous hanging mobiles comes courtesy of the Calder Foundation, and the doodle version responds when a laptop with the right equipment is tilted. It also rotates and sways in response to clicks and drags. Interacting with the doodle, especially when trying to do so via an accelerator-enabled device, seems to work best in a Chrome browser.

Jered Wierzbicki, a software engineer at Google, wrote on the company blog that because the doodle is the first made entirely using HTML5 canvas, a "modern browser" is required.

"It runs a physics simulation on the mobile's geometry, and then does realtime 3D rendering with vector graphics. Only recently have browsers advanced to the point where this is possible," writes Wierzbicki.

Apparently this is the second year that Google's tried to run the Calder doodle. Last year it was up briefly, then pulled due to technical problems.

Calder was prolific during the middle of the 20th century in particular, creating not only hanging mobiles but also large installation pieces across the country. Early in life he spent time as an engineer and his mobile works were carefully crafted and balanced to be able to shift into new shapes easily and gracefully -- perhaps this was part of the appeal to Google, known for its engineering culture.

The Calder doodle marks two days in a row of unusual logos. Yesterday, peapods adorned the Google homepage in honor of Gregor Mendel, the "father of genetics" who did famous experiments on the traits of plants.

Google has established a history of interactive and entertaining doodles over the past few years, including hits like a playable Pacman game and a Les Paul-inspired guitar that allowed users to record impromptu ditties. Here's a video of the Calder doodle in action:

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