X (company)

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This article is about the semi-secret research subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.. For the Canadian television series, see X Company. For the online banking company, X.com, see PayPal. For other uses, see X (disambiguation).
Formerly called
Google X (2010–2015)
Subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.
Industry Research and development
  • January 2010; 6 years ago (2010-01) (as Google X, under Google)
  • October 2, 2015; 12 months ago (2015-10-02) (as X, under Alphabet Inc.)
Headquarters Mountain View, California, United States
Key people
Parent Google (2010–2015)
Alphabet Inc. (2015–present)
Website solveforx.com

X, a US-American semi-secret research-and-development facility founded by Google in January 2010 as Google X,[1][2] operates as a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.[3] X has its headquarters about a half mile from Google's corporate headquarters, the Googleplex, in Mountain View, California.[4][5]

Work at X is overseen by entrepreneur scientist Astro Teller, as CEO and "Captain of Moonshots".[6][7][8] The lab started with the development of Google's self-driving car.[8]

On 2 October 2015, after the complete restructuring of Google into Alphabet, the company was renamed to X.


While X projects are often referred to as "moonshots" within the company, not all so-described moonshots are part of X. For example, Calico, Google's life extension project, is considered a moonshot but is not a part of X.[9][10]

In mid-2014, Google said there were eight projects being developed at X.[11] As of late 2014, X projects that have been revealed include Wing, Glass, Loon, and the driverless car.

Self-driving car[edit]

Main article: 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.[12] 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.[13]

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.[14][15][16] The license was issued to a Toyota Prius modified with Google's experimental driver-less technology.[17] As of March 2016, Google had test driven their fleet of vehicles, in autonomous mode, a total of 1,498,214 mi (2,411,142 km).[18]


Main article: Project Loon

Project Loon is a project that aims to bring internet access to everyone by creating an internet network of balloons flying through the stratosphere. It uses wireless routers in balloons that are above weather and plans to give access to the internet to those who can't reach it or are in need of help.[19]


Project Wing is a project that aims to rapidly deliver products across a city by using flying vehicles, similar to the Amazon Prime Air concept.[20] 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 is a small 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.[21]


Main article: Google Glass

Project Glass is a research and development program by Google to develop an augmented reality head-mounted display (HMD).[22] The intended purpose of Project Glass products would be the hands-free displaying of information currently available to most smartphone users,[23] and allowing for interaction with the Internet via natural language voice commands.[24] One Google glass costs $1500.


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. However, it must be noted that these are merely speculations. Others have suggested that it might be used as a floating data center.[25]

Graduated projects[edit]

  • The Google Contact Lens, a smart contact lens that aims to assist people with diabetes by constantly measuring the glucose levels in their tears, was announced by Google on 16 January 2014.[26] This project, the nanodiagnostics project[27] to develop a cancer-detecting pill, and other life sciences efforts are now being carried out by Verily.[28]
  • Google Brain is now a deep learning research project at Google which started as an X project. Considered one of the biggest successes,[29] Astro Teller has said this one project has produced enough value for Google to more than cover the total costs of X.[30]

Other projects[edit]

  • The web of things, a way of connecting real-world objects to the Internet.[5]
  • Long lasting smartphone batteries.[31]

Projects that X has considered and rejected include a space elevator, which was deemed to be currently infeasible;[32] a hoverboard, which was determined to be too costly relative to the societal benefits;[33] a user-safe jetpack, which was thought to be too loud and energy-wasting;[34] and teleportation, which was found to violate the laws of physics.[34]


In February 2016, Astro Teller, the X "Captain of Moonshots," gave a TED talk[35] in which he described the X approach to projects. Unusual characteristics of the approach included constantly trying to find reasons to kill off projects by tackling the hardest parts first, and both celebrating and rewarding staff when projects were killed off due to failure.


A number of companies have been acquired and merged into X, covering a diverse range of skills including wind turbines, robotics, artificial intelligence, humanoid robots, robotic arms, and computer vision. In 2013, X acquired Makani Power, a US company which develops tethered wings/kites with mounted wind turbines for low cost renewable energy generation.[36] In 2014, it acquired product design and mechanical engineering firm Gecko Design, whose previous products included the Fitbit activity tracker and low-cost computers.[37] As of 2015, X has acquired 14 companies: among them are Redwood Robotics, Meka Robotics, Boston Dynamics, and Jetpac.[37]


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."[4]

In 2015, X moved into the old Mayfield Mall site.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rowan, David (31 October 2013). "Astro Teller of Google[x] wants to improve the world's broken industries". Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  2. ^ "Secret Google lab 'rewards failure'". Newsnight. BBC. 24 January 2014. Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "Google to be publicly traded under Alphabet Inc. in planned restructuring". Retrieved 2015-08-10. 
  4. ^ a b Stone, B rad (2013-05-22). "Inside Google's Secret Lab". Businessweek. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  5. ^ a b Cain Miller, Claire; Bilton, Nick (November 13, 2011). "Google's Lab of Wildest Dreams". The New York Times. Retrieved February 23, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Introduction to Project Glass". Google+: Project Glass. 4 April 2012. Retrieved 5 May 2013 – via Google. A group of us from Google[x] started Project Glass to build this kind of technology… 
  7. ^ Shontell, Alyson (18 September 2013). "Meet The Mastermind Behind Driverless Cars, Glass And More: Google's 'Chief Of Moonshots,' Astro Teller". Business Insider. Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Gertner, Jon (15 April 2014). "The Truth About Google X: An Exclusive Look Behind The Secretive Lab's Closed Doors". Fast Company. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  9. ^ Harry McCracken; Lev Grossman (18 September 2013). "Google vs. Death". Time. Retrieved 18 September 2013. 
  10. ^ Markoff, John (4 December 2013). "Google Puts Money on Robots, Using the Man Behind Android". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  11. ^ Douglas Macmillan; Rolfe Winkler (27 May 2014). "Google's Prototype for Autonomous Driving Has No Steering Wheel". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 28 May 2014. 
  12. ^ John Markoff (2010-10-09). "Google Cars Drive Themselves, in Traffic". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  13. ^ Sebastian Thrun (2010-10-09). "What we're driving at". The Official Google Blog. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  14. ^ "Nevada enacts law authorizing autonomous (driverless) vehicles". Green Car Congress. 2011-06-25. Retrieved 2011-06-25. 
  15. ^ Alex Knapp (2011-06-22). "Nevada Passes Law Authorizing Driverless Cars". Forbes. Retrieved 2011-06-25. 
  16. ^ John Markoff (2011-05-10). "Google Lobbies Nevada To Allow Self-Driving Cars". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-11. 
  17. ^ Mary Slosson (2012-05-08). "Google gets first self-driven car license in Nevada". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-05-09. 
  18. ^ "Google Self-Driving Car Project Monthly Report - March 2016" (PDF). Google. Retrieved 23 March 2016. 
  19. ^ "Official website of project Loon". 
  20. ^ "Droning On". AOPA Pilot: 63. April 2015. 
  21. ^ Warwick, Graham. "Google Details 'Project Wing' Unmanned Package-Delivery R&D" Aviation Week & Space Technology, 3 November 2014. Accessed: 5 November 2014. Archived November 5, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. on 5 November 2014
  22. ^ Goldman, David (4 April 2012). "Google unveils 'Project Glass' virtual-reality glasses". Money. CNN. 
  23. ^ Albanesius, Chloe (4 April 2012). "Google 'Project Glass' Replaces the Smartphone With Glasses". PC Magazine. 
  24. ^ Newman, Jared (4 April 2012). "Google's 'Project Glass' Teases Augmented Reality Glasses". PCWorld. 
  25. ^ Casey Newton. "Google plans to dock mystery barge at former Army post in San Francisco". The Verge. 
  26. ^ "Introducing our smart contact lens project". January 16, 2014. Retrieved July 31, 2016. 
  27. ^ "Why Google's Cancer-Detecting Pill Is More Than Just Hype.". November 5, 2014. Retrieved July 31, 2016. 
  28. ^ "Official website of X". 
  29. ^ "They Promised Us Jet Packs.". July 23, 2016. Retrieved July 31, 2016. 
  30. ^ "Astro Teller, Google's 'Captain of Moonshots,' on Making Profits at Google X". February 6, 2015. Retrieved July 31, 2016. 
  31. ^ "Google's X lab is working on batteries that last longer". WSJ. April 11, 2015. Retrieved November 11, 2015. 
  32. ^ Gayomali, Chris (15 April 2014). "Google X Confirms The Rumors: It Really Did Try To Design A Space Elevator". Fast Company. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  33. ^ Gayomali, Chris (15 April 2014). "This Is Why We Don't Have Google X Hoverboards Yet". Fast Company. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  34. ^ a b Mack, Eric (6 May 2014). "Four Crazy Google X Projects That Failed". Forbes. Retrieved 9 May 2014. 
  35. ^ "The unexpected benefit of celebrating failure". TED. Feb 2016. Retrieved 3 June 2016. 
  36. ^ "Google acquires kite-power generator". BBC News. Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  37. ^ a b Miners, Zach (22 August 2014). "Google acquires Gecko Design for next-generation products". Retrieved 22 August 2014. 

External links[edit]