Top-Secret Google X Lab Rethinks the Future

Google is running a secret research lab in the San Francisco area where they're building robots and re-imagining the future, the New York Times reported yesterday.

The lab, dubbed Google X, gives researchers an opportunity to work on developing technologies that might lead to people riding elevators into space some day or have a dinner plate report one's dinner menu to Google+.

Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, reportedly are "deeply involved" with Google X. According to the report, Page worked on Google X before he took over as the company's top executive this spring.

Citing unamed sources, the report said scientists are working on some 100 projects at the lab.

Many of those projects are focused on robotics, such as developing robots that could go to work while their owners stay home, or ones that care for humans.

The lab also is reportedly working on light bulbs and coffee makers that could be turned on and off remotely with an Android phone.

Google's Self-Driving Car
Google's Self-Driving Car
According to the New York Times report, Google's self-driving car that was introduced to the world last fall was developed in the Google X labs. The car has since driven hundreds of miles across California.

A robotic self-driving car seemed fairly far-afield for Google researchers, which are best known for creating the company's ubiquitous search engine, along with services like Google Maps, the Google+ social network and Android.

But Google has also long made it clear that it's looking to go down other roads.

"We've always been optimistic about technology's ability to advance society, which is why we have pushed so hard to improve the capabilities of self-driving cars beyond where they are today," Sebastian Thrun, a distinguished software engineer at Google, wrote in a blog post last year.

Thrun reportedly is a top executive at Google X. The New York Times also noted that Google may manufacturer the autonomous cars themselves instead of turning to automobile manufacturers.

Google did not respond to a request for comment on the Google X report.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin , or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com .

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