Google X

Forget Area 51, the new hot conspiracy topic belongs to Google.

Have you heard of Google X?

Google X is a semi-secret facility run by Google. It is dedicated to making major technological advancements.

This is the division that has been experimenting and testing those self driving cars we’ve been hearing so much about.

 

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Their experiments and innovations don’t stop there.  Google X is tackling everything from augmented reality to a cure for cancer.

A Brief History

The rumour is that Google X was born from a dare. If it weren’t for the robo-cars, it might have never been born.

The lab’s conceptual origins reach back to 2005, when Chief Executive Officer Larry Page met the Stanford computer scientist Sebastian Thrun at the Darpa Grand Challenge.

Thrun’s team of graduate students was competing to send an autonomous vehicle through a 7-mile obstacle course in the Mojave Desert. The two men shared passion for technology and the potential of  Artifical Intelligence. They quickly became friends.

Two years after the competition, Page convinced Thrun and several of his students to team up to help create what would eventually become Google Maps.

Although the idea began there, Google X wouldn’t truly be born until 2010 when the company earnestly started designing the self-driving car.

What’s in a name?

 

Since then it has mostly remained hidden from view.

Today, it styles itself as the heir to the classic research lab – evolved versions of the facilities that created the innovations of their times.

Think NASA 2.0.

A lot of companies in the west have cut down on research funding since the 2008 financial crisis. Big, innovative projects that involve no immediate payout are considered too high risk for many companies that are still hurting from the recession. Google X suffers no such fears or restrictions.

Anything-which-is-a-huge

Location Location Location

Regardless of all the strange experiments rumoured to be going on behind their closed doors, the official building where Google X exists is remarkably ordinary. It occupies a pair of  red buildings about half a mile from Google’s main buildings.  It has no official website – which is understandable! Given all of the top secret projects, what would they post there?

Of course, these are just the ‘official’ headquarters. Google has many other secret locations that are hidden from view, or filed through dummy cooperations.

In 2013 it was revealed that Google has purchased four barges. They are all registered under the name By and Large. And yes, that is the name of the evil corporation from the Wall-E movie that destroyed the planet.

 

250px-BnL

 

Then, last week Google signed a 60 year lease on a former Navy dirigible hanger in Silicon Valley. They will pay 1.16 billion dollars for the 350,000 sure foot structure called Hangar One.

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The theory goes that a Google subsidiary, Plantary Ventures LLC, will use the spot for research and development of technologies related to space and aviation, assembly and testing on the areas of space exploration and aviation robotics. It will also work with other emerging technologies.

Projects

Google has some unbelievable projects. In fact, it prides itself on  working on things that have a slim chance of succeeding. Google calls these endeavours Moonshots.

Moonshots-Googles-name

Generally speaking, there are three criteria that X projects share. All must address a problem that affects millions—or better yet, billions—of people. All must utilize a radical solution that at least in part resembles science fiction. And all must use technologies that are now (or very nearly) obtainable.

All Google X projects start with the Rapid Evaluation team, Rapid Eval for short.

They choose ideas and test out the most promising ones by doing everything possible to make them fail. These are the steps:

  1. Problem identified
  2. Idea developed
  3. Solution tested
  4. Prototype built
  5. Product introduced

As of 2014  there have been eight projects listed as under construction at Google. These include:

  • Self Driving Cars
    • Cars that essentially drive themselves. These are already being tested on many roadways in Canada and throughout the world.  Futurists are predicting that these vehicles will be the norm by 2030.
  • Project Wing – Drone Delivery
    • The original concept behind Project Wing — which has been in development for more than two years — was to deliver defibrillators to heart attack sufferers within two minutes. Due to integration problems with the 911 infrastructure, Google has shifted the project to the much more general problem of same-day deliveries, disaster relief, and generally delivering to places that couriers cannot reach.
  • Google Glass
    • Check out our previous blog post about it HERE.
  • Contact Lenses that monitor glucose in tears
    • A smart contact lens that’s built to measure glucose levels in tears by using a wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded in contact lens material. This project is a long way away from being completed.
  • Project Loon
    • Balloon powered internet for everyone! Project Loon balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as airplanes and the weather. People can connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building. The signal bounces from this antenna up to the balloon network.
  • Makani Power
    • An Airborne wind power company.
    • Makani is developing an energy kite that generates more energy at lower cost than conventional wind systems. The kite uses less material and accesses more consistent wind at higher altitudes.
  • Lift Labs
    • A tremor cancelling spoon for Parkinson’s patients.

It is worth noting that X’s moonshots are not as purely altruistic as Google likes to make them sound. While self-driving cars will save lives they will also free up drivers to use the internet and Google. Wi-Fi balloons could result in a billion more Google users.

 

Failure

Even Google X isn’t perfect. It has had its share of spectacular failures.

They may not be readily discussed, but Astro Teller, the head of Google X, is starting to shed some light on these hidden misnomers.

  • Space elevator – the cost and potential dangers of this far outweighed the benefits.
  • Hoverboard – this was actually invented by another company called Kickstarter after Google X gave up on it
  • Teleportation- this project was abandoned when it was found to break the laws of physics

 

 

 

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