Google's superfast fiber broadband is still only available in a handful of regions across the United States. People who are able to opt-in to Google's top-end internet and TV package are sent four devices. They're not particularly beautiful creations, but their release in 2012 showed Google's intention to step into a market dominated by cable providers, as well as marking the advent of stupidly fast 1 gigabit home internet connections in the US.
The Trekker backpack weighs 30 pounds and has 15 5-megapixel cameras mounted on its bulbous head. It's a similar device to the cameras used by Google's fleet of Street View cars, but it's designed for use in the world's most remote areas. Google started offering loans of the Trekker to third-party organizations such as research groups, universities, and tourism boards last year, and it has already allowed adventurers to provide a backpack's eye view of places as diverse as the Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon, and Mount Everest.
Google's Chromecast streaming device is simple in design, resembling nothing so much as a USB memory stick. The wired HDMI dongle, the company's spiritual successor to its ill-fated Nexus Q, is designed to compete with Apple's AirPlay service. Chromecast — which only recently went on sale outside the US — has dedicated support for viewing browser-based services such as Netflix and YouTube on connected TVs, but it also performs acceptably when faced with regular Flash video.
In 2010, when Eric Schmidt detailed Google's upcoming operating system, he suggested users would not need impressive hardware. It took three years for Google to buck its own guidelines. The $1,299 Chromebook Pixel launched in 2013, boasting an incredible screen and best-in-class design. But the Pixel was too expensive and had poor battery life, limiting its popularity in the market.
Motorola's Advanced Technology and Projects group had been working on a concept for a modular smartphone called Project Ara when Google jettisoned its parent company. Wisely, Google kept the ATAP group on, continuing to support their work on phones built from user-selected parts and stuck together with electropermanent magnets. Project Ara phones could go on sale as early as next year, for as little as $50.
Google bought robotics firm Boston Dynamics late last year. The acquisition gave Google immediate access to a range of robots, including the Cheetah, which can run on mechanical legs at 29 miles-per-hour, and the BigDog, a quadrupedal bot that can navigate icy terrain. The LS3, pictured above, is designed to carry supplies for soldiers on missions, but some of Boston Dynamics' other machines are a little more esoteric in their design and function. The frankly creepy PETMAN robot can strut, squat, and raise its arms in celebration like a human.
This "smart contact lens" is one of eight projects Sergey Brin's Google X research group is currently working on. The lens is meant to help diabetes patients track their glucose levels in a less painful way than jabbing their finger every time they need to check their blood sugar. Google says it wants the sensor to be able to generate a glucose reading every second, and report when levels are dropping below a threshold using an LED in the corner of the lens
The Makani airborne wind turbine looks more like a propeller plane than a traditional turbine. Normal wind turbines need large bases to anchor them to the ground in heavy gusts; the Makani turbine is the size and shape of a glider, and is tethered to a small structure. The turbine takes to the skies, flying in vertical loops and using the wind rushing across its wing-mounted blades to generate power it sends back to the ground. Google purchased the company in May 2013 and presumably will continue to produce them.
Project Loon is Google's attempt to bring internet to remote and impoverished areas around the world — by balloon. The ambitious Google X project intends to use high-altitude balloons to beam down internet, using wind currents at different levels of the atmosphere to space out the "flock" of floating Wi-Fi providers. Bill Gates questioned the usefulness of the project last year, but Loon perhaps shows best how far Google has come from its early days as a simple search engine.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin announced his company's prototype self-driving car at the Code Conference yesterday. Unlike most other self-driving car designs, Google's comes without a steering wheel or pedals, forcing passengers to leave the navigation to an artificial intelligence. Brin said the car has yet to crash in all of the company's tests.