There’s somebody at Google that really has a “sense” for the future.
If that sense was coupled with better strategy and execution, these guys would without a doubt be the architects of the 21st century.
But unfortunately, they seem to be really good for intuitions and very bad for development of those dreams.
Google Glass is the perfect example. Sooner or later we will all be using augmented reality, and they were the very first to give it a serious try. Long time before “augmented reality” was the buzz word it is today. But the outcome of that try… well, we all know what the outcome was: total fiasco + bad press for Google (they were seeing as nosy techies trying to popularize intrusive devices for people to record and spy on each other).
However, even if they don’t bring things to term themselves, they are seeding the future. That those seeds will be used by somebody else or by themselves is not as important. The important thing is that they are starting the conversation, they are making other people aware of how powerful many ignored technologies can be.
Looking at the investments and acquisitions of Google in recent years, we get an interesting blueprint of what we are likely to accomplish in this century.
Here are the most significant examples:
The Rise of the Robots
2013 — Google acquired Boston Dynamic. The most amazing robotics company in the world, period. Not satisfied with that by 2014, the total count of robotics companies purchased by Google was 7. Too bad that Google is now shying away from its previous robotic thrust and looking to sell glorious Boston Dynamics.
2013 — Google created “Calico” a company whose goal is extend human life duration. Sounds logical to aim, sounds important to pursue. And yet, nobody “big” dared before them. Actually, nobody really big has dared since and aiming for life extensions is still something of a taboo.
The computer is on your eyes
Apart from the failed “Google Glass” that was an excellent idea with a bad timing (and terrible looks). Google is playing also in the Augmented Reality field through a huge investment (this type it is not the sole owner) in a company called Magic Leap.
2014 — Google makes a huge investment in Magic Leap. Magic Leap is generating enormous hype, as it is (supposedly) building the most realistic augmented reality device ever.
Cars driving themselves
2009 — Google began its Self-driving car project. A few years later, the cars actually do drive themselves (unlike extending life or achieving human-like artificial intelligence, this is not science fiction anymore, it’s already working). In 2016, the project became a stand-alone company under the Google umbrella. The company is called Waymo. Boring name, but who cares, the shit is working.
Artificial Intelligence at last
And the jewell of Google’s crown: DeepMind.
2014 — Google buys DeepMind (now, that’s a cool company name). DeepMind’s goal is to create human-level artificial intelligence. It is true that the world is still a bit far away from that goal. But nobody can deny that progress is being made (it’s enough to see how cleverer Google Search results, Google Translations, Google Cars, Google Robots, are getting all the time). However, all those improvements in AI are not connected to DeepMind, only recently DeepMind AI knowhow has started to be applied to some of Google’s activities, but the company has many AI feats to themselves like their software learning to play videogames by itself with no human guidance. DeepMind is widely considered the first player in artificial intelligence and, yes, it was very intelligent of Google to snatch it from the market before anyone else did.
In conclusion: Google is the company making the most important investments in the technologies of the future. If they mature as a company and start improving execution, product design, and product synergy, they, well, could be the lords of the morrow.