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Google I/O Pinball Game Shows How Apps Can Span Phones and the Web

Using Google's Flutter technology, the game blurs the boundaries between native smartphone apps and web apps.

Google I/O Pinball Game
You can try the Google I/O pinball game and the Flutter programming technology used to build it.
Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

In conjunction with its Google I/O conference, Google published a pinball game Tuesday that's geared to show off one of the company's favorite programming tools.

The pinball game is made with Flutter, a framework meant to help developers write software that'll work on Google's Android, Apple's iOS and the web. You can try it by loading the website in a browser.

Very Good Ventures wrote the app over the last 10 weeks, Chief Executive David DeRemer said Wednesday. Curious developers can check out Google's Flutter talk from Google I/O.

At Google I/O, Google announced several new products, including its lower end Pixel 6A smartphone, new Pixel Buds Pro earbuds and updates to its Android 13 beta. And it teased some upcoming offerings, including its Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro phones and Pixel Watch, coming this fall, and its Pixel tablet due in 2023.

On Android, the pinball app will ask if you want to install it as an app on your home screen. That illustrates Google's effort to blur the boundaries between web apps and native smartphone apps that run natively on iOS or Android.

Flutter plays a role in that effort. It's easy to craft an app that runs on either of the two smartphone families, the web, Windows and MacOS, DeRemer said. "It's truly one thing that can do almost anything," he said of Flutter.

The pinball game also uses a game engine called Flame designed to speed up game development, Google developers said in a blog post Tuesday.

Cross-platform programming can be tough because of interface differences, but the pinball game makes some accommodations. On a desktop browser, you use right and left arrows to operate the flippers. On phones, you tap the left and right sides of the screen.

But factors like different screen sizes can mean hiccups. In one test with Chrome on a Google Pixel 6 Pro, a phone with a relatively narrow screen, the rocket icon used to launch the ball is mostly off the edge of the screen.