Google X is the secret laboratory at Google dedicated to research and development of groundbreaking new technologies that may or may not result in marketable products that are actually deployed around the world.
Google X research center, which is just half a mile from the company’s Googleplex headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., is actively developing technology services that the search company says are often “moonshots.” Google Glass was originally an X development project and it’s probably the program with which the public is best acquainted.
But many people are still probably unfamiliar with some of the other projects that Google has publicly disclosed to date.
For some of these development efforts—such as the aptly named Project Loon, which will use high-altitude balloons to bring wireless Internet services to remote areas—it’s highly uncertain whether Google will release a commercial product that will return a dime of the money the company has invested so far.
This slide show looks at some of the top Google X projects, including those that have emerged from its labs and those that are still under wraps.
Google X was the original home to Google Glass, the digital eyewear that the search giant sold to “Explorers” over the last couple of years. They offered a wide range of features, including location awareness and Google Now support, but has since been taken off store shelves and moved away from Google X to Google proper. Google says that Glass will eventually resurface in some new incarnation.
Self Driving Car
Google X shocked many people around the globe when the labs unveiled a car that can drive itself. The technology is still in its infancy and likely won’t be ready for commercial use anytime soon. However, that hasn’t stopped some automakers from showcasing their own technology and promising driverless cars for the future. The Google has been ahead of the curve in this field.
Google Project Wings
Google X has unveiled a drone-delivery program called Project Wing. Similar to what Amazon has announced its own service, Project Wing uses unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to deliver packages. The service still requires significant safety and feasibility testing but could play a crucial role in any e-commerce exploits Google has in mind for the coming years.
Google Contact Lenses: A Diabetes-Tracking Technique?
Google has found a unique way to measure glucose for people that have, or suspect they have diabetes. Rather than require users to take a blood sample, Google X has developed a contact lens that measures glucose in tears. The feature is (obviously) far less invasive and could eventually be a better option for those who have diabetes and need to track their blood sugar levels.
Project Loon is Google’s answer to getting more people in emerging markets around the world onto the Web. The service puts balloons up high in the sky and delivers speeds that can match those offered by cellular carriers. Project Loon may fly over remote parts of the U.S. eventually but is ideal for emerging markets where people have little or no access to the Internet. The technology could help bring the next billion people online.
Makani Power is arguably one of the most interesting companies that Google has acquired and made part of its Google X program. The company builds wind turbines to create a greener method for producing energy. However, the project uses kites to get the wind turbines airborne. The result is cleaner energy and an interesting way of producing it.
Last year, Google acquired a company called Lift Labs and promptly added it to its life sciences division in Google X. Lift Labs has developed a product, known as Liftware, that is essentially a spoon that has the ability to counteract the effects of Parkinson’s disease and, essentially, tremors. The spoon has a built-in accelerometer and actuator to stabilize it to allow people to more easily eat. It’s a technology that will likely be built upon as time goes on.
Another part of Google X life sciences is a project known as Baseline Study. The project analyzes medical information and uses genomics to define what a healthy human body actually is. From there, Google hopes to provide doctors with the opportunity to more easily predict the onset of major diseases and keep people living longer and healthier. It’s a neat project that could have a profound impact on our lives in the next couple of decades.
Google X is in the nanoparticles business. The company in October unveiled a platform that uses nanoparticles to detect disease. In January, it followed that up with the announcement of the creation of synthetic skin as a proof-of-concept to show what nanoparticle technology might achieve in human biology and health. Look for more from Google’s nanoparticle platform later this year as more advances are made.
Google’s Neural Network
A few years ago, The New York Times was granted access to Google X and shown an array of computers assembled to create a neural network. The network, which was made up of 16,000 processors, was built to “learn” and then think on its own. The first thing the network did when it hit the Web was learned to identify cat videos on YouTube. Google says that as its network becomes more intelligent, it will tackle more complex tasks, such as speech recognition or even facial recognition.