Google X, the moonshot team inside of Google that has worked on everything from Google Glass to space elevators and hoverboards, may already be paying for itself. In new statements made to The New York Times, the head of Google X, Dr. Astro Teller, said that one of the company’s projects, once known as Google Brain, is making plenty of cash to fund the group’s other ambitions.
Google’s neural network project, formerly Google Brain, was discussed as far back as June, 2012 on the company’s blog, where it introduced its plans for machine learning and artificial intelligence by “building artificial neural networks, which loosely simulate neuronal learning processes.” The goal of the project is to teach machines to learn as a brain might. In one instance, Google discussed teaching a brain to tell the difference between a car and a motorcycle, but by teaching it without providing “labeled data.” Teller didn’t dive too much into the progress of the neural network project, but said that it’s already providing a return to Google.
“It would be fair to say Google Brain (now called the Neural Network Project) is producing in value for Google something that would be comparable to the total costs of Google X – just that one thing we’ve spun out,” Teller told The New York Times, adding that Project Loon – the company’s ambitions to provide wireless data services using high-flying balloons, may also soon spin a profit. “We’re in commercial discussion with various commercial partners about integrating Loon into other networks… I assure you we are looking at very substantial opportunities for Loon – Google scale opportunities. I think generally Google feels the return on investment for Google X has been pretty good so far.”
The Google X projects likely cost Google billions of dollars to explore, especially when the moonshots sometimes seem impossible – like the aforementioned space elevator. Teller didn’t touch on another project that’s about to roll out for public testing, Project Ara, but it seems plausible that the modular smartphone could one day be another big business born out of Google X.
Hit the source for The New York Times‘ full interview with Dr. Teller.