Over the past four weeks the search engine and technology company Google has released details of two audacious projects that sounds more like futurist fantasy than reality. The first was the news that its scientists had successfully produced the world’s first lab-grown hamburger. The second concerned its role as the driving force behind a company to significantly extend the human lifespan. The fact that senior executives from Google are bankrolling and overseeing the projects raised a few eyebrows in the mainstream media who tend to view Google purely as an internet media company.
Google started off 15 years ago as the disruptive start-up that transformed search engines. During that period they’ve taken their revolutionary and innovative approach to search engines and applied it to develop a range of projects that will change the way we live.
Latest Innovations from Google
Google Glasses is just one of the latest projects that has the capacity to change how we access information. Part of the rapidly growing trend in wearable technology, Google Glasses are augmented reality spectacles. They feature an in-built camera and mini web-connected screen that allows people to access internet search information via voices controls and gesture. The thought of a world full of people wearing Google Glasses might scare many people or and receive look warm response from others, but Google’s history shows they are masters at creating mass demand for a good tech product.
Earlier this year Google announced more details on its self-driving cars. Google’s robocars use lasers, maps and cameras to navigate its cars in a move they claim will transform driving. To some, the project sounds outlandish, but Google’s cars have already racked up half a million miles in testing. Indeed, it’s chief scientist on the project recently commented “In the not so distant future, people will think it strange that humans actually drove cars themselves.”
Senior executives at Google have a term for the new audacious projects – moon shots. According to Astro Teller, an entrepreneur and scientist who works on some of the new Google projects, moon shots have three areas in common: “a major problem that the world needs solving, a potential solution and possibility of technology making a difference.”
The Future for Google
There’s no doubt that Google is an incredibly innovative company. Back in the late 1990’s they revolutionised the search engine market by ranking search results by relevant and high quality links. Their system rapidly changed the market, took out their major competitors and made them the dominant search engine in the world. In fact its share of the search market in the UK and Ireland is around 90%. By far the dominant source of the company’s income, search advertising is now a vital part of modern marketing activity for brands and small business across the globe, and most of them use Google.
But Google hasn’t been content with sticking to the search advertising market. The history of Google over the past 15 years is marked by a continual quest to identity solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems. The central problem driving the laboratory hamburger project was the massive drain that meat production places on the natural resources of the planet. In fact, it takes about 100g of vegetable protein to make 15g of meat. With a rapidly rising globally population, a finite amount of land and more people across the globe consuming meat in their diets, it’s not hard to see the problem getting worse. So the lab hamburger may sound like a crazy PR stunt, but behind it’s actually a smart innovation to help solve a massive problem. On the health front, Google are also funding a company that is working to revolutionize the health market by delaying the aging process.
In other areas however Google has suffered from negative PR, not least in relation to its role in the Prism controversy where they were revealed to be supplying the US intelligence services with access to its data. Privacy campaigners and most media outlets have cried foul over the revelations. Even though major US internet companies are legally bound to comply with requests to hand over data to the US intelligence services, many people are uncomfortable about their search histories being available to third-parties.
Internally in Google, the Prism revelations are probably seen as blips in an upward trajectory of massive financial growth and ground-breaking innovation. And when you hear about the next seemingly madcap project to solve a world problem, it might well have been the brainchild of the tech geeks at Google.