Google's X Lab Future Looks Like 'Caprica'

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-11-15

The New York Times provided the best glimpse yet into the work that Google co-founder Sergey Brin and other crack engineers have been working on for the last several months.

There exists in the secret Google X lab more than 100 experiments that Brin said last month at the Web 2.0 Summit were "farther afield" projects. As the Times noted:

It's a place where your refrigerator could be connected to the Internet, so it could order groceries when they ran low. Your dinner plate could post to a social network what you're eating. Your robot could go to the office while you stay home in your pajamas. And you could, perhaps, take an elevator to outer space.

One of those (or another) could come to fruition this year, Brin said at the Web 2.0 Summit, a sentiment driven home in the Times story. And he didn't mean the driverless cars, which were also rooted there. My practical side says the Web-connected fridge or socially oriented dinner plate would be most feasible.

So what might the future world as Google envisions it? It's hard to think of this on practical terms, but if you saw Google's demo of Android@Home at Google I/O last May, you have an idea: Web-enabled lights, music, refrigerators, etc.

Heck, Google's own Vint Cerf said at Google Atmosphere yesterday that he uses IPV6-powered lights and heating in his home. Talk about eating one's own dogfood. This is proof-of-concept stuff he's using to power his home. In 2011.

Let's say Google and others mass produce this stuff and sell it. The so-called Internet, or Web of Things becomes as commonplace as microwaves and GPS devices.

What will the world look like? Science fiction, you say? You'd be right. We often look at Google's data collection in terms of the sci-fi flick "Minority Report," particularly with respect to the way Google and others might show users ads by scanning their retinas.

But I imagine that world Google X is yearning for would look a lot like "Caprica."

In "Caprica," a spin-off prequel series to the profound "Battlestar Galactica" remake that aired from 2004 to 2009, robots as household assistants are commonplace among the rich.

Teenagers use virtual reality devices called "holo-bands" that let them tap into virtual worlds Neil Stephenson envisioned in his seminal book "Snow Crash."

People write on paper, sure. but the paper includes hyperlinks that open up portals of information on the page as if it's a tablet. It's incredible-seeming stuff. Artificial intelligence abounds. It's somewhat utopian, before "Battlestar's" dystopia.

Here's a trailer:

This is the direction Google is headed. And it's using search ad revenues to get us there. I've read others applaud this stuff as "Googley," and while I cringe at the characterization, I agree with the thesis.

It's the ceaseless quest to move the needle not just in search, ads, browsers and mobile, but in high-tech overall. It's about making info access easier and creating more efficient lifestyles.

It's why I still cover Google and have high expectations for the company to change the world. Google X will make Google+ and other technologies seem trivial and shallow by comparison.

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