Google’s top 5 craziest projects
The laboratory Google x, a division of Google whose location is kept secret, is known for its remarkable work in disruptive innovation. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, would spend a lot of time in this mysterious laboratory in Mountain View.
This weekend, in New Zealand, Google X launched inflatable balloons to bring wi-fi to areas where there is no connection. Back on five crazy projects of the Web giant.
Google Car, the driverless car
This automatic car project was announced at the end of 2010 by Sebastian Thrun, co-inventor of the Google Street View service. An automatic pilot system was installed on eight vehicles, having traveled more than 200,000 kilometers in the United States without causing any accident. Technologies used: a laser remote sensing system called Lidar, which generates a 3-dimensional map of the car’s environment, a camera detecting signs and obstacles, a radar, and a movement sensor.
The cost of a car is estimated at 150,000 dollars (approximately 110,000 euros). In late 2011, Nevada passed a Self-Driving Car Operation Act. A first vehicle equipped with Google technology was authorized by this state in May 2012.
The space elevator, between science fiction and reality
In 2011, Google admitted that its Google X lab was working on a space elevator project. The concept is worthy of a science fiction book: build a cable stretched between the Earth and a counterweight placed in orbit, and make an elevator move along the cable. In short, the same principle as for building elevators, with the difference that the cable must measure several thousand kilometers, and be made of a much more resistant material. Google is not alone on the project: the Japanese construction company Obayashi plans to develop an operational space elevator by 2050, to send passengers 96,000 kilometers from the earth’s surface.
The computer brain, a giant leap for artificial intelligence
In June 2012, Google’s secret laboratory unveiled a surprising achievement: the construction of its first brain, or more precisely of a neural network made up of 16,000 processors, and connected to the Internet. Exposed to images from more than 10 million YouTube videos, this brain has learned, independently, to recognize a cat among 20,000 different objects. Very encouraging results: the images of cats were identified with 75% accuracy, a figure that rises to 82% for human faces.
This project is part of Google’s ambition to actively contribute to research on machine learning. With this in mind, Google bought last March DNNresearch, a Canadian start-up specializing in neural networks. The Web giant could use these technologies in particular for its indexing and translation systems.
Ingress, when gaming takes on augmented reality
The Ingress project, which began in November 2012, was carried out by Niantic Labs, a division of Google led by John Hank (Google Earth, Field Trip), and which centers its research on the link between new technologies and our compared to reality.
Ingress is a geolocated and multiplayer game that works on the same principle as World of Warcraft: all participants play on the same map. But the novelty of Ingress is considerable: the map represents the real world, and players must travel to physical locations to play. Divided into two camps (the “Illuminated and the“ Resistance ”), they take part in missions involving portals located in public places: museums, stations, etc.
This game seems made to be adapted on Google Glass, the firm’s other breakthrough innovation. The way Ingress makes his players interact with reality could also serve as an example for the development of new Google services and applications.
Loon, Wi-Fi balloons to connect isolated regions
This weekend, Google was testing its project Loon in New Zealand: thirty helium balloons were launched to provide Internet access in the most isolated regions. The Google X laboratory, at the origin of the project, aims to launch other inflatable balloons (20 in the coming weeks). Floating at an altitude of 20,000 meters, they will offer geographical areas deprived of Internet access (mainly in the southern hemisphere) a connection whose speed will be at least equal to 3G. Each balloon should cover an area of 1,200 square kilometers. It remains to be seen how to direct these balloons, to position them above the desired regions.