Google I/O 2023 Save the Date
I/O, Google’s annual technology conference, brings the world’s developers together to share, connect, and learn. To generate awareness and excitement for this year’s event, Instrument created a globally collaborative and sharable puzzle that honors a precursor to modern computing: weaving.
How it works
This year’s save-the-date experience includes seven individual puzzles that vary in difficulty and can be solved in any order. Individual players can solve all seven puzzles, earning badges along the way — yet the date itself isn’t revealed until a threshold of solves is achieved globally.
But first, let’s think about weaving.
Weaving as programming
For thousands of years, humans have used weaving to make functional objects, tell stories, and bring people together. As the technology of mechanical looms advanced, weaving set the stage for modern computer programming. In fact, the punchcards that Charles Babbage used to program early computers were derived from the cards used to program jacquard looms.
Inspired by this history, we set out to create a tribute to weaving whose underlying mechanics are powered by the same math and logic used to “program” a loom.
Warp, weft, and matrix multiplication
The logic of a multi-shaft loom is built on concepts familiar to developers: binary and matrix multiplication. When the three primary inputs of a loom — threading, treadling, and tie-up — are expressed as matrices of binary values and then multiplied, they create the pattern that the loom then weaves. When paired with the color of the vertical and horizontal threads — the warp and weft — these inputs create an endless variety of outputs.
In these familiar concepts we saw an opportunity to design a series of puzzles whose interface is like a digital loom where the player is the weaver. The puzzles’ solutions inform binary matrices that ultimately come together to create a bespoke I/O weaving.
The centerpiece of the experience is a dashboard that provides access to the puzzles and our generative weaving which displays an individual player’s progress as well as the community progress.
Weaving the output
When the puzzles are completed and arranged properly, the final I/O tapestry is revealed to the player. To ensure players work together to reveal the date, a global progress bar tracks the number of total solves for each puzzle. Only once a certain number of solves are achieved is the collective weaving completed and the event date revealed.
Everything ties together in the end
On launch day, the puzzle went live with a cryptic but intriguing social media post along with hints and a unique hashtag to inspire collaboration and knowledge sharing.
Google reports that within minutes there were solution attempts on three continents. The first person to solve the entire puzzle did so in just under two hours. Before the threshold of solves was achieved to finally unlock the 2023 I/O date, the puzzle had players in over 160 countries — and people continue to try. There was even an entire article written to help others decode each puzzle so as to unlock the date for everyone.
Instrument has always been interested in the intersection of design and technology. With the I/O 2023 puzzle, we worked with Google to reflect the culture of developers — just like we’ve done in all our work for I/O over the years — and honor the unexpected ways that programming has shaped our world.
Special thanks to our development partners Left Field Labs, the beautiful branding created by &Walsh with the Google Events & Experiences team, and the soundscape by Peter Van Straten.
- UX / UI Design
- Art Direction
- Visual Design
- Creative Direction
- Motion Design
- UX Strategy
- Information Architecture
- Sound Design