Inside Google's very strange amusement park ride at CES 2019
Scenes from Google's Disney-like ride at CES.
Scenes from Google's Disney-like ride at CES.
Image: bridget bennet / mashable

CES is a weird place. There's strange tech literally everywhere, and it's totally normal to hear people un-ironically describe mundane things like door handles and toilets as "totally gorgeous."

So when I heard that this year Google, back at the show for its second year in a row, had a full-on ride at their massive space outside the Las Vegas Convention Center, I wasn't so much surprised as curious about just how gimmicky the experience would be. 

I had no idea what I was in for.

First off, the whole thing is an actual, honest-to-God ride. Seriously, a Google rep told me they had to pour an entire new foundation in order to safely accommodate the experience. 

Things take a turn for the weird before you even get on, though. The queue area has a number of figurines, including an animatronic grandma character that talks to you — you know, just so you know this robot senior citizen can actually see you.

But wait! There's one more giant robot you have to meet before you're ready to get on the ride. This one is a tired dad who just wants to sleep. Oh yeah, his wife is a shadow puppet for some reason. Anyway, the dad is important because the actual "ride" is all about the dad trying to get his errands done.

Image: bridget bennet / mashable

The animatronics continue once you get on the ride, at which point a catchy Google Assistant-themed jingle starts. The vibe is very much Disneyland's "It's a small world" ride, except instead of teaching you about world cultures, you're getting a bizarro acid trip of a lesson on all the ways Google can infiltrate your life. 

You know, fun!

Scenes from Google's strange CES ride.

Scenes from Google's strange CES ride.

Image: bridget bennet / mashable

Scenes from Google's strange CES ride.

Scenes from Google's strange CES ride.

Image: bridget bennet / mashable

The ride itself is actually pretty impressive considering it's quite temporary. There are a number of different "scenes" you ride through, from a living room inside a house all the way to the front door. 

Near the end of the ride, the track winds its way back outside to snap your photo.

Here's a sped up version of the entire ride:

When the ride ends, Google reps helpfully direct you to look at photos from the ride, and instruct you on how to claim a free Google Home Hub for yourself. There are also stacks and stacks of macarons, which were delightful.

But I was also just a littlleeee creeped out by the whole thing. Don't get me wrong, the setup is impressive. The sheer spectacle of the thing is pretty incredible, even by CES standards.  

The biggest search company in the world just took me on a literal fucking ride

And I like Google Assistant, generally speaking (see my thoughts on its new language interpreting feature). But the over-the-top theatrics and slightly unsettling life-sized cartoonish animatronics feels, well, vaguely dystopian. I mean, the biggest search company in the world just took me (and dozens of other journalists) on a literal fucking ride. If that's not some kind of metaphor then I don't know what is.

Maybe I'm overthinking it. Google, after all is obviously on a mission to be the most talked about company at CES, and in that sense, the ride will undoubtedly be a massive success. I know I won't be able to get that robot granny out of my head for days.

Excuse me while I go order my free Google Home Hub.

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