Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Google's Lab of Wildest Dreams

Google's Lab of Wildest Dreams
New York Times (11/14/11) Claire Cain Miller
               ; Nick Bilton

Google X is a top-secret lab where Google researchers are focusing on 100 blue-sky concepts, including reportedly the U.S. manufacture of driverless cars, space elevators that collect information or transport things into space, and fleets of robots that could aid Google with information gathering.  Other concepts the lab is concentrating on include methods for linking everyday objects to the Web in an Internet of things.  Google X reflects Google's aim to be a hub of groundbreaking research and development, and Google's Jill Hazelbaker says speculative project investment is a key component of Google's makeup.  "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," she says.  Google X is staffed by roboticists and electrical engineers hired from Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon University, Nokia Labs, Stanford University, New York University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun, who invented the world's first driverless car, is one of the lab's research leaders, as is fellow Stanford professor Andrew Ng, who specializes in teaching robots and machines to function like people via the application of neuroscience to artificial intelligence.