8 of the Coolest Projects to Come Out of X, Google's Moonshot Factory
Since 2010, Google has dedicated resources to Moonshot projects, forward thinking endeavors designed to solve the world’s biggest problems. So what has the Alphabet-owned company been cooking up?
To start, it’s not entirely a surprise that a division with an emphasis on science fiction is intent on making robots a reality. Not much is available to the public on this particular area, but according to the X website, “teams are investigating how machine learning can be used to teach robots new skills that will enable them to reliably perform useful tasks in unstructured environments.” (Alphabet formerly owned Boston Robotics.)
So all in good time, we suppose.
Read on for some of the most intriguing projects being worked on in X, the Moonshot Factory.
Makani energy kites, which look like model airplanes tricked out with a bunch of propellers and have the wingspan of a smaller jet plane, are X's attempt to better harness wind energy. They can generate up to 600 kilowatts of energy, which is enough to power roughly 300 homes. So how does it work? The M600 kite is attached to a ground station, and as the kite is flown, the wind moves through the propellers and the spinning action generates power, which is then sent down to the grid via a tether.
Glass Enterprise Edition
Though the company’s first stab at Google Glass proved that we weren’t quite ready to wear computers on our faces in casual social settings, the Moonshot factory is currently working on Glass Enterprise Edition, designed with manufacturing and outdoor workers in mind. The idea is that Glass can be clipped onto safety goggles or shields, so if something needs to be repaired, for example, workers can use the display to read directions.
Free Space Optics
This project is working to bring high-speed internet to areas that do not have access without requiring extensive digging and the laying of lines. Essentially, free space optics is the utilization of beams of light to transmit high speed data between point A and point B. It is currently being implemented in Andhra Pradesh, a state in India.
As of the end of the 2016, with more than 2 million miles in the books -- roughly 300 years of human driving, including the first ride on public roads -- Google's self-driving car project graduated from X. Now named Waymo, its first public trial is currently happening in Phoenix, Ariz.
Developed in an effort to increase access to goods and reduce traffic and pollution, this effort to create delivery drones made its first real-world deliveries in 2014, bringing first-aid supplies, candy, dog treats and water to farmers in Queensland, Australia. In 2016, it completed what was at the time the largest and longest drone delivery in the U.S., when students at Virginia Tech got air dropped some delicious burritos. The project officially graduated in July 2018.
Project Loon was developed to try a different way of connecting people to the internet -- instead of wires in the ground, a network of stratospheric balloons. In 2017, Loon worked with Spanish telecom firm Telefonica to provide internet connectivity to people in Peru who had to leave their homes due to flooding. After Hurricane Maria in 2018, Loon worked with AT&T and T-Mobile to get more than 200,000 people in Puerto Rico back online.
This team is focused on improving medical tech, developing prototypes for smart contact lenses that could accurately measure biological markers in our eyes, nanotech that could potentially identify and latch onto cancer cells and wearables that could tell when those nanoparticles found the cells and eating utensils that could help users with hand tremors or limited mobility.
One way you probably didn’t realize you could store energy was in giant tanks of molten salt and chilled liquid. But Malta does just that, sending electricity back to the grid when it's needed the most. The team is currently at work developing a pilot plant to show whether the tech can be used at a broad commercial scale.