Google X: What Kind of Robot Future Does Google Have Lined Up?

Google is working on top secret robot stuff, according to a report. The New York Times put out a piece about a “top secret lab in an undisclosed Bay Area location where robots run free”. It’s ca...
Google X: What Kind of Robot Future Does Google Have Lined Up?
Written by Chris Crum
  • Google is working on top secret robot stuff, according to a report.

    The New York Times put out a piece about a “top secret lab in an undisclosed Bay Area location where robots run free”. It’s called Google X, and many of us are wondering what in the world Google might be up to, given the company’s rich history of technological innovation and quirkiness.

    According to the report, the company is tackling a list of 100 “shoot-for-the-stars ideas.” If Google already has self-driving cars, what kinds of things could this mean? A few things mentioned in the piece include: web-connected refrigerator and plates, robots, and space elevators. Apparently, many of the projects involve robots. Here’s a particularly haunting passage from the report:

    Fleets of robots could assist Google with collecting information, replacing the humans that photograph streets for Google Maps, say people with knowledge of Google X. Robots born in the lab could be destined for homes and offices, where they could assist with mundane tasks or allow people to work remotely, they say.

    Google is certainly no stranger to thinking outside the box. See 10 Interestingly Wacky Things Google Does or Has Done. These include: self-driving cars, beekeeping (80 employees, at least at one time, were/are tending to bees), cataloging genes, tracking the flu, funding transport pods, and sending Android devices to space (and that doesn’t include the robot spiders they rent out for parties).

    Some of the things Google’s investment arm, Google Ventures, invests in include: antibody discovery, fuel, language learning, therapeutics, predicting the future, car sharing, and weather insurance.

    The point is that Google is always looking for innovation.

    After Larry Page took over as Google CEO, there was some concern among investors about whether Google is spending too much on things that might not pay off. Too many wacky ideas perhaps. In a shareholder meeting in June, Page stressed that the company is still focused on search and advertising – the company’s real breadwinners.

    “We don’t want to choke innovation,” he said. “We want to make sure we have a lot of things going on at the company that are maybe speculative…we spend the vast majority of our resources on our core businesses, which are search and advertising. … That’s our core focus.”

    In the meeting, he put up a picture of the self-driving cars, and is quoted as saying, “It’s much more interesting [for the media and people outside of the company] — what is the latest crazy thing that Google did. It tends to be like three people in the company, keep that in mind. We are not betting the farm on a lot of those things. That’s not what we are doing.”

    Tech reporter MG Siegler says he started hearing about Google X earlier this year, adding that he was told it was the codename of the group Google co-founder Sergey Brin took charge of after handing Google+ off to Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz. “The way it was described to me at the time was ‘Google’s version of Brickhouse’ — referring, of course, to the now defunct Yahoo Brickhouse. “

    Here’s the CrunchBase description of that:

    Brickhouse was an idea incubator that recreated the start-up environment with all the resources and full backing of Yahoo. They focused around relatively short term projects, roughly 4-6 people working on an idea for 4-6 months. The Brickhouse was launched in 2006 and closed in December 2008.

    Jesse Stay, author of Google+ For Dummies, says on Google+: “The smartest companies right now are creating their own R&D divisions, independent from the rest of the company’s bureaucracy, with their own budget and liberty to create innovative stuff independent of the rest of the company. I’ve heard of some really cool stuff developed this way, many that I can’t talk about – if your company isn’t doing this, they should. It’s the only way to beat the red tape and bureaucracy in a large organization. I believe that’s (somewhat) what Google X is trying to accomplish – innovate cool stuff without the bureaucracy.”

    But who knows just what is going on inside Google X? The company is reportedly pretty hush hush about it even internally. Of course, who can blame them with incidents like this, where Google employees share messages intended for internal eyes only with the whole world?

    Who knows what Google is working on that is “top secret” and wouldn’t want to get leaked, and with robots? A company of this magnitude, with the resources it has, and the thinking out of the box attitude displayed repeatedly throughout its history could be up to just about anything.

    I don’t want to sound like a paranoid Sci-Fi nut here, but are we getting close to the rise of the machines here or what?

    I’ll leave you with some clips of robot-related things that are already out there. These don’t necessarily have anything to do with Google, but it gives you an idea of what’s possible.

    Oh, and let’s not forget Siri.

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