Search giant Google has made no secret of its plans to expand beyond the digital realm. The company has acquired firms ranging in specializations like home monitoring and metrics to unmanned aerial vehicles and robotics. Having accumulated more than 140 companies over the past decade, Google has become an amalgamation of diverse technology, and one that is pushing boundaries on many business and social fronts.
So far, the company’s acquisitions seem to have no united theme behind them; a seeming mishmash of random companies most likely purchased as as way to diversify, and head off future competition. There have been purchases that drew a lot of attention, like the acquisition of YouTube in 2006, or the more recent purchase of robotics company Boston Dynamics, which led many to wonder if Google intends to turn itself into Skynet, the supercomputer system from The Terminator film franchise.
One theory is that all of these acquisitions is not only to hoard new technology and revenue-generating products, but also to bring on as many talented developers as possible. With a literal army of talent spread across the globe and working under one unified entity, there’s no telling how far Google could spread their influence, or how much social and political clout it can muster.
From fiber-optics networks to wearable technology, Google is quickly graduating from being simply an advertising machine to something much more. So where will Google be in a decade? A simpler answer might be to ask where they won’t be. Here are five places you can expect to find the search giant within the next ten years.
1. Invading The Retail Sector
While companies like Amazon are ruling the roost in e-commerce, Google is already hot on its heels. Having acquired a number of companies to build up a formidable online shopping presence, Google may be looking to usurp the balance of power in e-commerce.
As Wired reports, it’s the perfect way to show how effective Google ads can be. “In the end, it’s all about advertising, Google’s main source of revenue. The less often consumers think of Google as the first stop for online shopping, the less incentive brands have to advertise there. What’s more, if Google can get shoppers to not only start their product search on the site but buy and even pay for that product, the company can show advertisers just how well Google ads work.” So by supplanting Amazon for product searches, Google can effectively put on display an advertising showcase.
How will they get there? Acquisitions of companies like DeepMind and RangeSpan seem to indicate the direction Google plans to go. Together, those two companies alone increase the depth and spectrum of Google’s commercial abilities. Combined with Google Wallet and Google Shopping, the company will be able to follow real time trends in e-commerce, predict future buying trends, and point shoppers to the most relevant ads and content. As Google builds up its e-commerce assets, Amazon and other online retailers had best start developing strategies to compete.
2. Expanding Its Robotics Empire
It’s been obvious that Google sees robotics as a major industry going forward. The company has purchased a half-dozen or so robotics companies over in its recent history, none more high profile than Boston Dynamics. Boston Dynamics builds robots that have the ability to walk on their own, and have been developing technology to be put into use by the U.S. military. It has created models including the BigDog, Cheetah, and Atlas — all a tad bit frightening in their own unique ways. This is the genesis of all the Skynet jokes you’ve been hearing.
Google had also acquired companies like Meka Robotics and Redwood Robotics around the same time, spurring excitement over what it could be planning. Is it possible it could be conjuring up ideas for a vast mechanized army for the government? Possible, yes, but unlikely. Google is most likely looking at ways to implement the manipulation and vision technology into a way that will generate revenue.
With robotics technology leaping ahead at unprecedented rates, and new technologies and innovations happening often, it might not be too long before Google starts developing artificial personalities, much like the we’ve seen in the movie Her. While thoughts of Terminator’s Skynet and giant warring robot armies are fun, the truth is that Google is much more likely to be monetizing its technology than destroying it on a battlefield.
3. Handling Your Commute
Many experts agree that self-driving cars have enormous potential. Google has been testing the technology for a while now, and has come away with impressive results. It is theorized that by 2040, almost all cars on the road will be computer-controlled, much to the dismay of car enthusiasts world-wide. A pioneer in the world of autonomous cars, Google started its experiment by packing its vehicles with sensors and sending them off into the world. After 700,000 miles without an incident, the technology looks primed for widespread application.
The technology has grown to watch out for bicyclists and stop for passing trains. It can navigate crowded and busy city streets safely and more efficiently than with a person behind the wheel. As Google puts it, “We’ve improved our software so it can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously — pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn. A self-driving vehicle can pay attention to all of these things in a way that a human physically can’t — and it never gets tired or distracted.” It’s hard to argue with that.
Self-driving automobiles, while still a developing technology, offer a lot of advantages. More free time for passengers, higher safety rates, and better efficiency are just the beginning. Some car companies have taken it upon themselves to test their own, including Swedish manufacturer Volvo. As the technology continues to grow, and new systems are perfected to make self-driving cars even more enticing, expect to see adoption taking place on a wide scale in the near future.
As a passenger in your own vehicle, all you’ll need to worry about is how to pass the time as you sit back and relax.
4. Automating Your Home & Office
Automation software is looking to become Google’s new bread and butter. High-profile acquisitions like Nest raised some eyebrows, and has left people wondering if the company is looking toward building a smart house of sorts. While Nest is, at its core, a climate control device, it’s a big step up from simply lighting something on fire in a brick enclave, which was the standard for heating homes for hundreds or thousands of years. In just a couple of decades, Google could not only take the heating and cooling of our homes under its wing, but several other aspects of home automation as well.
It’s not far-fetched to think Google can take Nest’s automation software and apply it to other areas of the home, including kitchen appliances like ovens and refrigerators. It has also, in some ways, started to take over your television and entertainment with the Chromecast device. Don’t forget Google Fiber, which will be supplying your home with internet and cable, if you’re lucky enough to live inside a service area.
Building a conscious home is a complicated goal, and one that Google is sure to chip away at over the coming years. But don’t be surprised to see new homes and apartments come with installed automation systems, based on the Nest model. Combined with a car that could potentially park itself in your garage, a home that is monitoring itself for optimum comfort levels, and maybe a future robot pal to greet you, Google is aiming to have a hand in almost every aspect of life.
5. Your Body
Does Google look to actually break the barrier and make itself a part of, well, you? It looks that way. The world is still getting used to the idea of Google Glass, the wearable technology that comes in the form of a pair of glasses, offering users an interface to stay connected where ever they go. Glass, of course, has been met with some backlash. But Google Glass is only the beginning, as the company is just beginning to develop technologies for physical enhancement.
Another big development on the wearable tech front is the advent of smart contact lenses that offer embedded cameras and physical health monitoring abilities. There are an exciting number of possibilities for a technology like smart contacts, offering ways to possibly help blind and disabled individuals, and even get a whole new way to capture footage for movies and sporting events. The development does have a long way to go, however, including FDA approval and many test cycles.
The possibilities robotics offers physical adopters is another path Google could possibly take. Amputees could look forward to new limbs, or athletes could look to muscle augmentations. This is not only an exciting path, but a potentially dangerous and morally hazardous one. For now, the company is sticking to visual, wearable technology. But in a decade, the possibility of being fully connected to your environment, both physically and mentally, is looking more and more likely to come to fruition. Changing the way the world works may not have been what Google wanted to do when it launched in 1998, but recent developments inspire a different feeling.
Not bad for a search engine born from a research paper.
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