For the latest goings-ons inside Google's not-so-secret "secret" X lab, Bloomberg Businessweek's Brad Stone spent some time there, giving us a peak at the futuristic "moon shot" ideas the Google geeks are working on these days. While the X lab houses a lot of cooky ideas that never see the light of day, the "top-secret" innovation hub birthed the world's favorite face computer, Google Glass, and Google's controversial driverless cars. So as outlandish as some of the following ideas may sound, they're all in the works or they suddenly aren't, per Businessweek's new cover story — yes, even the balloons — and, hey, maybe they'll come true, too.
Broadband Internet... by Balloon
For years Google has touted its goal to provide Internet access for everyone, everywhere around the world, which of course is a great public service but would also help Google's bottom line. The latest way to make that happen, with much of the world still not connected to a grid, is by way of supped-up hot-air balloons:
Then there’s X’s still-secret project to bring Internet access to undeveloped parts of the world. A decade ago, David Grace, a senior research fellow at the University of York, spearheaded a project to mount broadband transmitters on high-altitude balloons, as part of a multicountry initiative backed by the European Commission, called the Capanina Consortium. The initiative never progressed beyond the experimental stage. Grace now says that he has heard that Google is working on such balloon-based broadband technology.
Wind Turbines in the Sky!
Last year Google acquired Makani Power, an alternative energy start-up it had previously invested in. Now Makani is working on an airborne wind turbine prototype that sits up in the sky, sending energy back down to earth via cables:
Makani Power’s newest airborne turbine prototype, called Wing 7, is a 26-foot-long carbon-fiber contraption with that flies in circles at altitudes of, sending power down a lightwbase station. “If we’re successful, we can get rid of a huge part of the fossil fuels we use,” says Damon Vander Lind, the startup’s chief engineer.
Sorry, No Space Elevators
Although a New York Times story once talked of elevators to space, it's a no-go at Google for now:
Some of the hallway whiteboards are filled with diagrams of that multigenerational nerd fantasy: space elevators. Media outlets have speculated that Google X is working on such contraptions, which would involve giant cables that connect the earth to orbiting space platforms. Google X is working on no such project, but employees have embraced the concept.