If you’ve never heard of Google X, a secret lair hidden away in some undisclosed Bay Area location, you’re in good company. Many Google employees haven’t either.
The future-facing lab makes Google’s 80/20 model for fostering innovation sound like child’s play. Rather than devoting part of the week to somewhat far-fetched ideas, the New York Times reports, Google X is “tackling a list of 100 shoot-for-the-stars ideas.”
That “stars” part is somewhat literal. One of the projects its developing is a space elevator, “a longtime fantasy of Google’s founders and other Silicon Valley entrepreneurs” that images space travel along a cable tied to Earth.
In the same vein as Xerox PARC, which at work on the PC back when those words probably sounded as kooky as “space elevator,” Google X is chasing big dreams. Some of the ideas, which are still in the conceptual stage, are connecting household objects to the Internet, so that a lightbulb could be turned off remotely as well as a fleet of robots for your home and office.
Some of these ideas are actually monetizable: for example, a version of that lightbulb, synched to Android devices, might be out before the end of the year. It’s unclear whether Google’s driverless cars emerged out of Google X, but Google is currently considering manufacturing them as well, reports the Times.
In an attempt not to rattle shareholders, Google spokesman Jill Hazelbaker emphasized to the paper that the amount Google spends on these ideas isn’t anything to freak out about:
“While the possibilities are incredibly exciting, please do keep in mind that the sums involved are very small by comparison to the investments we make in our core businesses.”
I dunno, guys. Spending on space elevators and a robot working class sounds more sensible to us than trying beat Facebook at social. Stick to what you’re good at.