Google succumbs to Star Wars fever with apps makeover

Perform your finest Jedi mind tricks to discover all the Star Wars features Google has hidden in its apps.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
2 min read

Dark or light? Which side will you choose?


The world has the Star Wars bug once again, and not even Google is immune.

The tech titan published a Star Wars website on Monday that lets users choose their side in the battle to control the Galactic Empire and that transforms their Google apps to suit their allegiance. The Google Maps app, for example, will show your location not with the traditional arrow character but with a Rebellion X-wing spacecraft or opposing TIE fighter.

Built in conjunction with Lucasfilm and Disney, Star Wars Google will keep morphing and getting new features until the latest film, "The Force Awakens," comes out in cinemas. Google has even gone so far as to promise a virtual reality Millennium Falcon, so you'd better get your Google Cardboard headsets ready.

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Star Wars fans will undoubtedly fall hook, line and sinker for Google's promo ahead of the film's debut. It's been 10 years since a movie was released as part of the franchise, and "The Force Awakens" could serve as a gateway for a whole new generation of fans. Google's effort, however, feels like it's directly aimed at those who already are fans, with Easter eggs and clever references sprinkled throughout the user experience.

The Star Wars universe is a marketing juggernaut that appeal to an audience of millions, so it's no surprise Google wants to get in on the action. But it's clear that more than just commercialism motivated Google's project.

Google gave its engineering staff free rein to tweak and expand Google, said vice president of product management Clay Bavor in a blog post introducing google.com/starwars, explaining that the Mountain View, California, tech titan is rife with dedicated Star Wars fans.

"You can regularly spot Darth Vaders, dogs dressed like Yoda, and even the occasional stormtrooper roaming the halls of our data centers (probably still looking for those droids)," Bavor wrote.

Google's Star Wars site seems to be a way of bringing various ideas from the company's fans together in one place. Without spoiling too many of the surprises, you will find the release date for "The Force Awakens" in your calendar, and you may notice your Gmail is looking a little different. Also check out the Street View man in Google Maps -- he's no longer the familiar mustard-hued fellow.

It's perfectly possible to change your allegiance if after playing along with the good guys you want to take Darth Vader's advice and feel the power of the dark side. And if you've had enough Star Wars cultural immersion, you can switch it off altogether. The features will remain available until February 1.