Inside Google X: What’s Cooking in Google’s Secret Lab

Inside Google X: What’s Cooking in Google’s Secret Lab

June 10

Google has quite a few departments working on a lot of interesting stuff. Some of the coolest of those inventions are being developed by Google X. Come to find out, Google X lives in a quasi-secret lab that exists to create out of the box products that make web search seem elementary. Since there’s a great chance that several of these concepts will never see life outside of the facility they’re born in, Google probably isn’t depending on this so-called “skunk-works” department as a major revenue driver but that doesn’t mean it can’t eventually become a force beyond research and development.

Google X may be operating on the down low, so to speak, but some of its ideas have already been leaked from the lab. You may have actually heard of a few.

Google Glass

Google Glass is easily the most well-known concepts to the come out of the Google X lab. It could end up being one of the most successful as well. The X team designed Glass to recreate the smartphone experience in a pair of augmented realty specs that fit over your face in mounted headset style. This wearable device allows the user to do everything that’s possible on a mobile device, including make calls, browse the web, take pictures, retrieve directions, and all that good stuff.

Google still hasn’t provided an official release date, but with useful applications ranging from gaming to healthcare, users and industries are chomping at the bits to get their hands on this one.

Space Elevators

Google will probably outlive most of us, but not everything it cooks up is a hit. Some, like the space elevator initiative, don’t even get off the ground. Rich De Vaul, who heads up the Google X Rapid Evaluation squad, confirmed attempting to build a machine that zooms you from the ground to orbit using virtually no energy. The project offers the promise of cutting the cost to get to space by quite a bit, but customizing the super strong and reliable cable needed to pull the car has proved to be a challenge. So for now at least, Google-branded space elevators are on the shelf.

Auto-Pilot Cars

I heard about this one on my sports radio show. We’ve all seen it in Knight Rider and Bond movies. Google X is reportedly trying to get the greenlight on introducing automated driving technology into the streets. The team claims to have driven hundreds of thousand miles without an accident in autonomous test runs. For Google, the challenge is hashing out the legalities and finding automakers who are willing to partner up on the production side.

There’s no brake pedal or steering wheel, so it would probably be a while before I hop in one of these things. As for Google, the feeling is that the search giant is leading the way forward in the driver-less car trend.

Smart Appliances

Google is joining the group of companies looking to incorporate smart device technology into everyday appliances. Through the Android@Home framework, the X team is said to be working on developments that allow refrigerators, air conditioners, and other household items to interface with smartphones and tablets. Your fridge lets you know you’re out of milk. App support lets you create grocery lists right in the memory and pull it up on your phone.

The goal is to give the consumer some level of control over every connected gadget in their home from a centralized device. Anything is possible with Android at the helm, but Google will be challenged in delivering smart technology that is on par with the current wave of refrigerators, garage door openers, and other slick smart appliances.

Google Genie

Google’s stealth crew is working on some technology that could make the construction industry a long-term client. The project named Genie is described as a cloud-based platform that allows architects and engineers to collaborate on designs. They’ll reportedly have access to analytical and simulation tools that help in planning the construction of skyscrapers and other ginormous buildings. Genie is projected to help cut up to 50 percent in production costs and time, while potentially generating $160 billion annually in revenue. Word is that the project received rave reviews in early testing and the concept is currently up for development.

The Google X team doesn’t necessarily get the sexy jobs, but one day in the near future, their contributions could have global implications. Think you’ve got what it takes to develop the technology of tomorrow? Core77 explores the qualities hiring manager Ricardo Prada looks for in recruiting new Google X researchers and developers.

Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr