Top-Secret Google X Laboratory Revealed

Google is operating a top-secret laboratory for futuristic ideas involving space travel, robots and connected devices, according to a report in the New York Times.

The lab, called Google X, is run with a CIA-like level of secrecy, according to one of the Times’ sources, with one nondescript office for logistics on Google’s Mountain View campus and another for robots in a secret location in the Bay Area.

Web-connected coffee makers

The secret lab reportedly employs roboticists and electrical engineers hired from Microsoft, Nokia Labs, Stanford, MIT, Carnegie Mellon and New York University.

Many Google employees are unaware of the secret lab’s existence but founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, are said to be deeply involved in the lab’s operations, with Page working on Google X before he took the chief executive role at Google this spring.

Other Google X leaders reportedly include robotics and artificial intelligence expert Sebastian Thrun and neuroscience professor Andrew Ng.

The lab is apparently involved in some 100 projects, including robots that can go to work while their owners stay at home, a space elevator that hauls objects into orbit and allows the collection of data from the solar system, and web-connected objects such as light bulbs, plant pots and coffee makers. Brin has already reportedly attended a conference via robot.

Google’s driverless car project emerged from the lab and another product is said to be set to emerge from Google X by the end of this year. The company said earlier this year it intended to introduce a web-connected light bulb this year that will be able to communicate with Android devices.

Google has acknowledged the existence of speculative projects but has been careful to reassure investors that these are not taking funding away from the company’s core businesses.

At a June stockholder meeting Page said the company was “careful stewards of shareholder money” and was not going to “bet the farm” on futuristic projects. Google has long been known for its large-scale ambitions, such as its dream of scanning every book in the world for Google Books.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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