How Google’s Chief Innovator Sergey Brin Is Making Science Fiction Real

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Stephan Lam / Reuters

Sergey Brin, CEO and co-founder of Google, during a product demonstration for the company's I/O conference in San Francisco on June 27, 2012

Who says innovation is dead in Silicon Valley? At a time when some pundits are questioning whether the region’s innovation engine is tapped out, Web-search titan Google offered a powerful display last week of why that’s not the case. In a stunt that set a high-water mark for high-tech demonstrations, Google co-founder Sergey Brin blew away the crowd of developers at the company’s I/O conference with Project Glass, one of Google’s high-profile secret ventures. And Brin’s work leading Google X, a top-secret research lab, shows how the Silicon Valley giant is at the cutting edge of next-generation technology.

In the demo, a team of skydivers wearing augmented-reality glasses jumped out of a plane above San Francisco, proceeded to conduct a live Google hangout session in midair and then landed on the roof of the Moscone Center, the fabled venue that has been the site of so many historic tech keynotes over the years. The divers were carrying precious cargo — a box containing the high-tech glasses — which they handed over to a team of mountain bikers, who jumped a gap in the roof and delivered the unit to climbers who rappelled down the side of the building. Another group of bikers raced through the lobby and into the auditorium, handing the device to a beaming Brim onstage. (Here’s the official video. Watch Brin’s behind-the-scenes account of how they pulled it off here.)

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Was it a publicity stunt? Of course, but the spectacle highlights how Google is so much more than a search advertising company. The Mountain View, Calif.-based tech giant is pushing the limits of technology, from wearable computing like Project Glass to self-driving cars to projects we don’t even know about because they remain locked away inside Google X, the R&D lab that Brin leads. Asked about Project Glass by Bloomberg TV after the demo, Brin explained, “It’s the notion of taking computing, which has moved from giant mainframes to laptops to phones, to perhaps an even lighter and more free-form factor. Something you can have with you when you’re falling through the sky at 120 miles an hour.”

(MORE: The Future of Innovation: Can America Keep Pace?)

“It’s freedom,” Brin said. Later in the interview, the Google co-founder elaborated on Google X. It’s “about doing brand-new, risky technological things — making science fiction real,” he said. “We’re not thinking about other, existing products on the market today. We’re trying to do risky things that may or may not work out, but it’s got to be something really bold.”

(MORE: Is Innovation Dead — or Doing Just Fine, Thank You?)

Brin’s comments on innovation were echoed in a must-watch interview that tech pioneer Marc Andreessen gave last week to Charlie Rose. Andreessen, a billionaire who co-founded Netscape and now leads a venture-capital firm, discussed how in Silicon Valley, innovation is not a means to an end — it is the end.

The core idea we have is that the fundamental output of a technology company is innovation. That’s very different from a lot of businesses. The fundamental output of a car company is cars, the fundamental output of a bank is loans. The fundamental output of a tech company is innovation. The value of what you’ve actually built today and what you’re shipping today is a small percentage of the value of what you’re going to ship in the future, if you’re good at innovation.

The challenge that tech companies face is they can never rest on their laurels with today’s product, they always have to be thinking about the next five years. If they’re good at running an R&D machine internally that produces innovation, they tend to do quite well over time. It’s when things go wrong internally and they stop innovating, which happens a lot, that the wheels tend to come off.

As some question whether the U.S. has what it takes to continue to drive innovation, it’s refreshing to know that Brin and his Google X team are still looking ahead and dreaming big. Here’s the full video of the Project Glass demo.

28 comments
aschwab84
aschwab84

This article gave no information.  No mention of fees for using cards overseas?  Or using ATMs?  There is an easy solution here....How about saying that if you know how to use a credit card and pay it back, then you should use it.  If you cannot pay it back, then do not use it.  In fact, do not go on vacation if you do not have the ability to pay back what you buy.

Not to mention that if you can use your credit card, it should also say this.  Use your credit card where you can when traveling, assuming it has no overseas % charges.  Use your debit card (preferable one like Schwab or the other free ATM ones) to take out money at ATMs so you have cash.  That way, you avoid all fees. But this article covers none of that.

Hiro
Hiro

"For one thing, hotels and rental car companies put a hold on your card,

sometimes exceeding the amount of your reservation buy hundreds of

dollars."

*by

Steggles
Steggles

They said they could create jobs and

they're doing it!

The wealthiest individuals in this

country are dipping deep into their bank accounts to hand over

millions and millions of dollars for job creation.

Those of us who desperately need money

to feed our families, keep our small business afloat, pay our medical

bills... We've finally seen the light!

We'll shush our hungry children,

shutter our stores and give up doctor visits in order to stand by and

cheer the flood of dollars streaming into a vital public service.

At last we've been persuaded that this

country can't possibly recover its former glory unless the

advertising industry has sufficient funds to tell us repeatedly from

now until November: “Yeah? Well he's another!”

trip1ex
trip1ex

Tech for tech's sake.  

Jonathan Freedman
Jonathan Freedman

I reckon the first killer app will be the face remember function, so folk know the names of their joiner, builder and car mechanics.

Fatesrider
Fatesrider

So, when do they get rid of the dork factor in the way it looks?

BjammindD
BjammindD

The fact alone that google opted to make their new media server in the US instead of China (nothing against the Chinese manufacturers but jobs in the US and Canada are more important to me) gives me hope for the future of the Western World.

Brin is looking a little Jobs-esque these days, the parralells being obvious.

Guest
Guest

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

Let us pray-hope-opine such is not so.

johnoatesmoustache
johnoatesmoustache

what a bunch of nerds. Have these Google chodes ever even seen a pair of breasts?

BrianP
BrianP

I actually found that overly long stuny incredibly boring and underdeveloped. They in no way showed off what the thing can do beyond "it's glasses with a webcam." I thought for sure they would use the AR to highlight the city below, but nope. Several minutes of guys skydiving. Then mountain biking. Without telling us anything interesting about the product. C'mon Google. 

Guest
Guest

wow, they made a pair of glasses with a camera, mind blowing!

John Morris
John Morris

Apple amp; Microsoft are big fat slow moving retards that drag the whole tech sector down.  lol Google is remarkable, fast, and their progress is inevitable. lol

At MWCC what did Apple unveil? that the address bar in Safari is now also a search bar! wow. Oh and you can now attach 1 jpg to an email in the native email client. lol - What did Google unveil? Google now, Android 4.1, a 200 dollar quad core tablet, Q, Glass! and that is not to mention driverless cars, asteroid mining, and I can go on and on lol

AgeDater. C om
AgeDater. C om

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Kemuel Chavez
Kemuel Chavez

Dude this would be awesome to broadcast extreme sports like mountain biking!

j_live
j_live

This is what technology is and should be, happy that some guys are still pushing the bar. Others take what already existed, add stupid software patent,

litigation with everyone who try to compete and even call the overpriced Chinese made things technology  

 No wonder they are about to have more than $200 billion for their  investors which is easy with the lowest Ramp;D in the tech world.   

vinothr
vinothr

Google is the future. End of story.

ozfozzy
ozfozzy

Apparently you didn't get the memo.  These guys are smart, rich, and getting ALL the women.  How's counting McNuggets working out for you?

CharlesKGim
CharlesKGim

Yeah and the iPhone just makes calls. Thats why people line up around the block...cause the iPhone makes calls. 

TheBaldr
TheBaldr

 Hahahaha.  All they demonstrated is they can attach a camera to a pair of glasses.  Back in 2005, in Tokyo I took a Toyota autonomous car around(yeah no driver, real car)  Google has neither invented them nor made them available to the public.

Paula R. Robinson
Paula R. Robinson

Then mountain biking. Without telling us anything interesting about the product. C'mon Google...FoxGetPositionWork.blogspot.com

Fatesrider
Fatesrider

Yeah, but god forbid you be on the receiving end of one of those iPhone calls.  Their microphones are garbage.  I can ALWAYS tell when I get an iPhone user call.  I can barely understand them.  And it doesn't happen very often for other phones.

Yacko
Yacko

cough…cough…Edison…cough