For anyone who doesn’t already know, Google X is Google’s top-secret lab that has been responsible for Google Glass, weather balloons that provide internet connections to the remotest parts of the world and self-driving cars. The team of engineers who work in Google X are tasked with thinking not just out of the box, but taking the box and shaking it so that it no longer actually resembles a box. They are allowed to think big in order to find solutions to the world’s problems even if the idea is completely impractical and idiotic because who knows if it will be the next “moonshot” project.
Here is a summary of Google X’s projects and some which didn’t quite make it.
This has been one of the best known projects to come out of the Google X lab and can now be purchased for $1500. These smartglasses feature a display that Google claims to be the “equivalent of a 25-inch high definition screen from eight feet away”, a 720p camera, 16GB of memory and connectivity for both WiFi and Bluetooth. The device runs on the Android operating system and already has apps from Google Play Music, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and NYT, with its very own app store, Glassware, expected some time this year.
Google is hoping that driverless cars will be road-ready by 2017, with current tests by the company showing that the cars are now able to navigate city streets and the unpredictability that comes with driving around a busy environment. This Google X project combines the use of GPS and the software Google Chauffeur in order to accurately navigate the cars. A host of sensors, that include laser sensors, ensure the precise depth and location of the car and work together to cross check all the received information.
It is unlikely that we will see these cars driving around our streets in the immediate future, as safety will be a key issue but it is definitely a Google X project to keep an eye on.
Smart Contact Lenses
Google has been developing smart contact lenses that can detect and monitor blood sugar levels in order to aid people suffering from diabetes. The company revealed that it is working along with the FDA and explained that more work is needed before this will be commercially available.
In an official blog post Google said: “We’re now testing a smart contact lens that’s built to measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material. We’re testing prototypes that can generate a reading once per second. We’re also investigating the potential for this to serve as an early warning for the wearer, so we’re exploring integrating tiny LED lights that could light up to indicate that glucose levels have crossed above or below certain thresholds.”
Project Loon was revealed in June 2013 but still remains in an experimental stage. The balloons, which are around 50-feet in diameter, are launched to around 20km above Earth and include radio antennae, a flight computer, solar panels and an altitude control system. These will provide faster internet connections to areas where it is not currently available. In the initial trials 50 homes were able to receive 3G-like speeds and Google is planning that Project Loon will be an alternative to the expensive fibre-optic cables.
Argentina, Australia, Chile and South Africa are among the countries expecting to benefit from Google X’s ambitious project.
The Ones That Didn’t Make It
Among other things, Google X is also said to have considered a space elevator and a hoverboard but both ideas never made it to fruition because the logistics were unfeasible. As far as the elevator was concerned, there is currently no one who is able to mass-produce cables that are strong enough to withstand the pressure of being stretched from Earth to outer space.
The hoverboard however almost made it, with Google actually producing one – it was the size of a quarter! The challenge came in up-scaling the model to a version that could actually be used. Back to the drawing board on that one!