Google X, a Secret Product Lab, Revealed for First Time

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The Google X lab is filled largely with robotics engineers, not software engineers.
Darrell Eager/Getty Images

THE GIST

- Search-engine giant Google has a secret product lab called Google X.

- The research being pursued is so future and far-out, that you'll probably never see it.

At Google, X really does mark the spot.

Search engine giant Google has a secret product lab called Google X feverishly developing blue-sky projects such as space elevators, driverless cars and Internet-enabled household devices (coffee pots? clothing?), The New York Times reported Monday.

The labs are reportedly run "as mysteriously as the C.I.A.," according to unnamed sources familiar with the project, and housed in two facilities -- one in California at the company's headquarters and one in an undisclosed location elsewhere in the country.

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"They're pretty far out in front right now," Rodney Brooks, a professor emeritus at M.I.T.'s computer science and artificial intelligence lab and founder of Heartland Robotics, told the Times. "But Google's not an ordinary company, so almost nothing applies."

The lab is largely filled with robotics engineers, according to The New York Times, in spite of the software engineers more commonly employed by the company. But don't get your hopes up: The types of projects cited aren't the sort of thing the company will be releasing any time soon.

Space elevators, for example, are a concept common in science fiction stories and movies. The idea is simple: Ditch the expensive, dangerous, limited rockets mankind has traditionally relied upon to ferry cargo and crew to outer space in favor of an elevator, a giant platform that tows anything and everything up a tremendous cable to a platform orbiting at a fixed location around the planet.

While discussed widely by researchers and developers, a space elevator is no more than an idea, at present. Likewise, robot cars and interconnected home products are probably not destined for our homes and car ports anytime soon -- Google did not officially comment on the status of projects or even the existence of the Google X labs.