A recent report on Google's "secret lab," known as Google X, shows how far beyond their core business Google will explore: space elevators, web-connected appliance, and robotic avatars are among the 100 far-out ideas being researched.
Projects from Google's Secret Lab
According to the New York Times, Google X is hard to research because Google is "so secretive about the effort that many employees do not even know the lab exists." The lab is used to test out highly experimental ideas that are generally unrelated to Google's core business.
Sources say that the lab has a list of "100 shoot-for-the-stars ideas" to be researched. Some of those projects are quite literally reaching toward the stars; the "space elevator," a fantasy of Google's founders, is one of the many projects currently underway. It may be that Sergey Brin is behind several of these projects; while Brin evades any mention of Google X, he notes that his work "is farther afield projects."
Another major Google X project includes a robotic avatar program, in some ways frighteningly similar to the movie "Surrogates". The experimental project is testing how remotely controlled robots can become the stand-in workers completing tasks and gathering information for employees who are still sitting at home. Brin even tested the idea himself by attending a conference via robot.
Google is also working on a project known as "the web of things." This project connects appliances and other objects to the internet, allowing for remote control over everything from coffee makers to lightbulbs to sprinklers. Among other engineers working on the project is Johnny Chung Lee, the creator of Microsoft Kinect.
While most of the projects are in the early research phases, at least a couple of the projects are reported to be nearing completion.
Why So Secretive?
The lab was described as being run with CIA-like stealth; the company has two separate non-descript labs, and all staff members are briefed only on limited portions of the project. Beyond protecting their intellectual property, Google is likely guarding against potential shareholder fallout.
Discussing far-out projects such as these, Google spokesperson Jill Hazelbaker stated that, "While the possibilities are incredibly exciting, please do keep in mind that the sums involved are very small by comparison to the investments we make in our core businesses." It certainly seems the company wants to reassure shareholders that their money isn't being wasted on far-fetched ideas.
These are wild projects that may be the next big thing or total flops. While knowing which ones are which will be difficult to tell prior to the actual release of the projects, we have seen some examples of Google's experiments; aerial Wi-Fi, gigabit ethernet connections, and self-driving cars are just a few of the now-visible projects that likely started with Google X.
What projects are you most excited for? And what do you hope Google's secret lab will work on next?