Google I/O pinball game shows how apps can span phones and the web

In collaboration with his Google I/O conference, Google on Tuesday released a pinball game meant to show off one of the company’s favorite programming tools.

The pinball game is built with Flutter, a framework to help developers write software that will 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 has been writing the app for the past 10 weeks, chief executive David DeRemer said Wednesday. Curious developers can check out Google’s Flutter talk on Google I/O.

To Google I/O, Google announced several new productsincluding its lower end Pixel 6A smartphoneNew Pixel Buds Pro headphones and updates to its Android 13 beta. And he teased some upcoming deals, including his Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro phones and Pixel Watchcoming this fall, and its Pixel tablet scheduled for 2023.

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

Flutter plays a role in this effort. It’s easy to build an app that runs on one of two smartphone families, the web, Windows, and MacOS, DeRemer said. “It really is a 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 on Tuesday.

Cross-platform programming can be difficult due to interface differences, but the pinball game makes some accommodations. On a desktop browser, you use the 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 misfires. When testing with Chrome on a Google Pixel 6 Proa phone with a relatively narrow screen, the rocket icon used to launch the ball is usually off the edge of the screen.

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