So there have been various rumors floating around the Bay Area for a few years now about mysterious projects that Google is working on in a Skunk Works-esque speculative R&D lab called Google X (sounds like a comic book). Projects that have gotten a bit of publicity include self-driving cars, space elevators, and refrigerators that automatically order groceries as you run out of food.
Recently there has been a spate of new articles about the lab, possibly in advance of an upcoming announcement about one of the projects. Many of the projects are noteworthy not just for their jaw-dropping ambition but also for the degree to which they are (or seem) unrelated to Google’s core business operations (unless a space elevator is a natural extension of AdWords). However, the thing that stuck out most to me while reading one of the articles published last week was a significant focus on the “Web of Things” (Google’s words). Broadly speaking, it sounds like one of the main areas that Google is pursuing revolves around the potential to connect more objects in our everyday lives to the internet.
Setting aside how much I love what Google is doing on a philosophical level as an engineer and innovation-phile (Mars, here we come!), I am also excited more specifically as a mechatronic systems designer. The idea of the next phase of internet evolution being one that connects people’s physical lives to the web is one that many people (*cough cough* including us) have been touting for a few years now. It also demands products and systems that are exactly the types of design projects that mechatronics is best at undertaking: systems that combine physical and electronic utility. The post linked above explores some of my thoughts on Web of Things products so I won’t beat a dead horse but it’s great to see someone like Google putting serious time and resources into these efforts and dreaming big in what they try to address. I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with (and sign me up for one of the cars right now).