Google X, stylized as Google[x], is a semi-secret facility run by Google dedicated to making major technological advancements. It is located about a half mile from Google's corporate headquarters, the Googleplex, in Mountain View, California. Work at the lab is overseen by Sergey Brin, one of Google's co-founders, while scientist and entrepreneur Astro Teller (Captain of Moonshots) directs day-to-day activities. Teller says that they aim to improve technologies by a factor of 10, and to develop "science fiction-sounding solutions." The lab began in 2010 with the development of a self-driving car.
In mid-2014, Google said there were eight projects being developed at Google X. As of late 2014, Google X projects that have been revealed include:
- Google's self-driving car
- Project Wing, a drone delivery project
- Google Glass eyewear that includes a screen and camera
- Google contact lenses that monitor glucose in tears
- Project Loon, which provides internet service via balloons in the stratosphere
- An airborne wind power company called Makani Power
- Lift Labs, makers of a tremor-cancelling spoon for Parkinson's patients
- An artificial neural network for speech recognition and computer vision
- The web of things
Projects that Google X has considered and rejected include a space elevator, which was deemed to be currently unfeasible; a hoverboard, which was determined to be too costly relative to the societal benefits; a user-safe jetpack, which was thought to be too loud and energy-wasting; and teleportation, which was found to violate the laws of physics.
While Google X projects are often referred to as "moonshots" within the company, not all so-described moonshots are part of Google X. For example, Calico, Google's life extension project, is considered a moonshot but is not a part of Google X. The same is true of Google's project to build robots for businesses.
In October 2013, the existence of four Google barges was revealed, with the vessels registered under the dummy corporation By And Large. Two of the barges have a superstructure whose construction has been kept under the utmost secrecy, while speculations indicate they could be used as marketing for, and stores for, Google Glass.
Life sciences division of Google X
The life sciences division of Google X does a range of projects in the life sciences.
Project Glass is a research and development program by Google to develop an augmented reality head-mounted display (HMD). The intended purpose of Project Glass products would be the hands-free displaying of information currently available to most smartphone users, and allowing for interaction with the Internet via natural language voice commands.
Google driverless car
The Google driverless car is a project by Google that involves developing technology for driverless cars. The project was led by Google engineer Sebastian Thrun, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and co-inventor of Google Street View. Thrun's team at Stanford created the robotic vehicle Stanley which won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge and its US$2 million prize from the United States Department of Defense. The team developing the system consisted of 15 engineers working for Google, including Chris Urmson, Mike Montemerlo, and Anthony Levandowski, who had worked on the DARPA Grand and Urban Challenges.
The U.S. state of Nevada passed a law in June 2011 concerning the operation of driverless cars in Nevada. Google had been lobbying for driverless car laws. The license was issued to a Toyota Prius modified with Google's experimental driver-less technology. In August 2012, the team announced that they have completed over 300,000 autonomous-driving miles accident-free, typically have about a dozen cars on the road at any given time, and are starting to test them with single drivers instead of in pairs.
Google contact lenses
Project Wing is a project that aims to deliver products across a city in a minute or two by using flying vehicles. At the time of the announcement on August 28, 2014, it had already been in development secretly at Google for about two years, with full-scale testing being carried out in Australia. The flying vehicles take off vertically, then rotate to a horizontal position for flying around. For delivery, it hovers and winches packages down to the ground. At the end of the tether, there’s a little bundle of electronics which detects that the package has hit the ground, detaches from the delivery, and is pulled back up into the body of the vehicle. Dropping the cargo or landing were found to be unfeasible, as users compromised the safety.
Google X acquired product design firm Gecko Design in August 2014.
A reporter from Bloomberg Businessweek visited the site in 2013 and described it as "ordinary two-story red-brick buildings about a half-mile from Google’s main campus. There's a burbling fountain out front and rows of company-issued bikes, which employees use to shuttle to the main campus."
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