Monday, November 14, 2011

The Google X factor - our future

Jack Dikian
November 2011

There are some of us who as kids didn’t grow up having a microwave oven to heat afterschool snakes. Some of us would never have dreamed of replacing batteries in a toothbrush. And household products like the Blue-ray, Bluetooth, Dyson, Flat-screen, iPod were to be in our collective future.

Sometimes we see products emerge from lesser ones. Products change, evolve and transform as with the introduction of DVDs replacing VHS Video or CDs replacing Cassette decks. In other cases products just seem to emerge; almost overnight and we are left asking how did we do without - a paradigm change.

Did we see the electric toothbrush coming; the car radio aerial imbedded into the windscreen, the light bulb that messages us, warning it’s nearing the end of its life. Okay, so we can’t buy a message send light bulb just yet – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

This brings me to my point, the Internet of Things somewhat like the current Internet of Networks which serve our insatiable appetite for information and data communication. Think the Jetsons, where pantries keep their own inventories, supermarket trolleys that know what’s thrown in them and homes that remember what’s in their own junk drawers. How about your dinner plate posting to Facebook what you’re eating, even better your toilet analysing what comes out the other end for the presence of substances indicating failing health.


We made a great deal of inroad in showcasing the “store of the future” in the nineties when I was a Management Consultant at Accenture (Andersen Consulting). I was also fortunate enough to visit the MIT Media Lab which has always been known for its broad range of human-machine research and innovation. It seems now (probably for a while) Google has been dabbling and bringing shoot-for-the-stars ideas that little bit nearer.

Google X, is the clandestine lab where Google is tackling ideas which are, according to some, at various stages of development with some close to becoming reality within a year or two.

“They’re pretty far out in front right now,” said Rodney Brooks, a professor emeritus at MIT’s computer science and artificial intelligence lab and founder of Heartland Robotics. “But Google’s not an ordinary company, so almost nothing applies.”

"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 software engineer at Google, blogged last year.

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