Google’s Secret Lair Uncovered

It’s well known that Google engineers are allowed to spend 20 percent of their time working on projects of their choosing that won’t necessarily lead to a profit-making product or service. Now it appears that for a select few staff, working in secret, it’s more like 100 percent.

The New York Times today reports on a secret lab known as Google X where staff are working on 100 ideas that have a low chance of success, but could be revolutionary if they came off. It seems the project has an office in the main Google headquarters, plus a separate facility in a secret location for practical work.

According to reporters Nick Bilton and Claire Cain Miller, the account is based on interviews with 12 people who know about the project but were unwilling to be named or directly quoted. It’s hard to tell how much of the secrecy is genuinely needed and how much is simply there so that the project inherently looks more important and exciting.

From the details that have been released, the work at Google X is less about continuing to develop online services and more about translating existing Google technology into hardware, particularly robotics. (Cue Android gag.) For example, there’s talk of using robots to operate the Google Street View camera vehicles, though it’s not clear how they’d stand up to attacks from angry villagers.

The facility also appears to be housing further work on Google’s attempts to develop a car that could be operated by computer, with the human driver only stepping in for an emergency.

There are also said to be several projects involving using Internet access to remotely control a series of devices from a lightswitch (presumably as a home security measure) to a garden sprinkler: these both sound like things that would work fine with a simple scheduler, though the added controls could be useful if you are away from home longer than planned. There’s also talk of a remotely-controlled coffee pot, which is reminiscent of the birth of the webcam.

While unconfirmed by the story, there’s an implication Google X is also helping develop the idea of the space elevator, a somewhat outlandish concept (dating back to the 19th century) that effectively involves propelling a weight on the end of a 100,000 kilometer “ribbon” into space and then using the ribbon as a cheap method to transport devices such as satellites into orbit. The project even suggests eventually using the technique to get to Mars.

[Picture Source: Flickr – David Blackwell (CC)]

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7 Responses to Google’s Secret Lair Uncovered

  1. It's a shame that Google has already been infiltrated by iCronies and iMoles from Apple who are deeply connected to crappple's Technology Theft riffraff (who interestingly forget to mention Crapple on their resumes when applying for jobs at Google). Crapple is going to steal the simpler ideas from google and implement them in as future iCraps and patent the more complex ones that it is incapable of having sweatshops in Asia implement for them so that they can sue anyone that tries to develop those ideas into products thereby getting into the lead position of holding back the entire high-tech industry from further advancement for decaudes.

    Keywards: peter graffagnino, ralf brunner, scott foreskin forestal, david springer, tim schaff, steve jobs, Jonathan ives, joni vogel, haroon the sandnegero

    • I find it really hard to believe that Google isn't aware of this. If it's true and YOU know it, then Google must. So I'm thinking they purposefully hire these guys, knowing they're from Apple. I also imagine there's lots of legal forms people hired have to sign (there's gotta be a "don't steal our stuff" clause).

  2. I was surprised that the space elevator concept was referred to as outlandish. We lack the materials and energy transmission technology to do it right now, but I've always though the concept itself was pretty good.