Google. Our favorite search engine and operating system development and upkeep company. You may know Google by the main tab on your web browser, or your email inbox, or social media site, or video hub, or better yet your smartphone. If you look somewhere online, Google has probably touched it or done something that is beneficial for it. And what of the real world, you ask? What has Google done in the physical world that so easily drags us away from cat videos on YouTube or Android version debates on Google+? Here are some things that Google accomplished or have made part of the Google family, and some of them may surprise you.
First on Google’s team roster is Glass. We all know or know of Google Glass; that thing that government seems to hate as a concept, yet law enforcement is beginning to adopt to augment the human capabilities. Glass was first publicly debuted at Google’s I/O 2012 summer conference as connected and ready for your life. Well, two years and one consumer availability release which didn’t pan out at all later, Google’s Glass project is still in the testing phase, and now accommodates prescription lenses and designer frames, with more functionality, like turn-by-turn visual and voice navigation and keyboard support.
Also from the year of the apocalypse comes something that met its demise like we were supposed to: the Nexus Q. The Nexus Q, also debuted at the I/O conference in 2012 was meant to become an Android-friendly home entertainment hub system, with its stylish shape and minimalistic aesthetics. But sadly, this device failed to stick with the consumer public, and Google killed it as a project and product, stopping sales and breaking compatibility in applications’ updates which were once able to pair and interact with the Nexus Q. The idea of content streaming with little wiring would come up later in Google’s career.
Google had a full year in 2012, showing off Glass and Nexus Q, but they didn’t stop there and then. The G also debuted Internet. Sound odd? Yeah, it should, because that’s not quite what I meant by ‘Internet’. I mean that Google debuted an Internet provider service called Fiber, which used wired internet in homes to give subscribers and residents access to gigabit (that’s a thousand times faster that 1 Mbps(1 megabit per second)Ethernet and TV service for under $150 per month, available in limited cities (currently only Kansas City, and Provo with Austin on the way).
2012 also heralded Google’s announcement of their revamping, remapping, and redesigning of their Maps platform and service. The tool of choice, to get every place a person could walk on camera, is the Trekker Backpack, with 15 5mp cameras built into it, to get every angle the human head could turn, especially on paths where cars and bikes can’t get to, like hiking trails.
Welcome home, 2013. Long time no see. What Google had in store for 2013 was quite interesting. That year, Google snuck leaks of a phone from their new friend Motorola, recently purchased at the time, apparently called the ‘X Phone’, which wasn’t far off actually. The Moto X, and later the Moto G, was a device that confused everyone with its seemingly basic approach to hardware and software, but blew the mind to pieces when it came to features and price. The Moto X showed manufacturers, and especially us consumers, that to be a great phone, no high-end specifications are necessary; just offer a great experience, with useful and simple features, and great battery life. Motorola, under Google(and as the last non-Lenovo-owned Motorola device)released the Moto G, which cost under $200 USD, and had everything that a smartphone needed, good software, sizable screen, camera, 3G and Bluetooth 4.0, again showing just because a phone is affordable it isn’t necessarily a cheap feature phone from 2006.
2013 was seemingly the year of non-Google Google, since in that one year, Google announced or added to its team and company roster four more projects, with only one being originally from within the Big G. That year, Google announced that Chrome OS was in fact a thing that was ready for consumers, in the form of a Chromebook called Pixel, which was a pricey touchscreen with a great design, but we didn’t take to it as consumers, simply because the cheapest Pixel was $1,300 USD. Google also bought a couple of companies, Boston Dynamics and Makani. You may know Boston dynamics from their robotic adventures with Cheetah, with a top running speed of 29 mph, and LS3, a four-legged robot ready to deliver supplies on the battlefield to our troops. You probably don’t recognize the name Makani, but it may become the opposite, where not knowing is preposterous. Makani makes wind turbines. Those huge pinwheel-looking things in deserts? Yes, those. But not in any way the same visual experience. Makani created a ‘flying turbine’ that generates power by ‘flying’ through wind current in vertical loops, and it looks similar to an RC plane attached to a single point as an anchor and power collection source. To remain in the sky, Google’s famous secret group, known only as Google X, previewed and showed off Project Loon. No, not the water fowl. Loon, as in balloon. Yes, Google did balloons, but not for the reasons or parties you may think. Google’s Project Loon is a concept for bring Internet access to places that wires and Wi-Fi can’t reach now, so Loon can literally fly the Wi-Fi to the place it’s needed. And yes, it looks similar to the weather balloons we don’t actually believe aren’t UFOs.
Now, we have this year, 2014, where Google has already done astounding things. They had the first developer conference for their Project ARA, a modular smartphone concept, back in February, and showed that it did indeed function and exist as more than rumors and pictures. It promises unique building and ownership opportunities not found with normal smartphones. Google also bought Nest Labs, the company behind the smart thermostat that learns your heating and cooling tendencies to help save you money and time via automation.
Chromecast, made available to us early this year, is the Nexus Q that Nexus Q wanted to be. Chromecast is Google’s next iteration of content streaming, plugging into your TV’s HDMI port and using Wi-Fi, you can watch your favorite movies and listen to your music from the Play Store on the big screen and speakers.
Smart is a word thrown around a lot today, and Google used it correctly earlier this year, with the reveal of a prototype Smart Contact Lens, brought to you by Google X. It previewed with the ability to track a diabetic’s blood sugar, no bleeding or stabbing necessary, and updates every minute. Where this will go, only Google and Google X know, and they’re not sharing.
And finally, and what spurred this look back through Google and its books, the wheel-less car. Not wheel-less in the sense of it slides or flies, but it doesn’t have a steering wheel. Or gas or brake pedals. But it does have an Artificial Intelligence on-board that is able to drive you about like you have your own butler named Jeeves or Mathilda (or whatever you wish to call him or her). The car, which was shown off yesterday by Sergey Brin at Code Conference, has no human steering or driving aspects except getting in and buckling up. The car can drive itself and has a big camera and monitoring system mounted on the roof. According to Brin, the car has not crashed once in all of Google’s tests and testing on and of it to date.
Google may be our search engine friend, but they also they have a strong foot in the doorway to the physical world, and that door, which will let ideas mix and be born, will create quite a unique and interesting future for all of us. Maybe one day you’ll see ‘Google’ printed in their typical colored font on the door, hood, or trunk of your car in five years. Only time and Google will tell.