From the beginning, just before the turn of the millennium, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) may have been considered a pretty nifty company with its handy search engine that would go on to become the world’s most popular. But, as everyone should know by now, Google didn’t stop at just a search engine.
Today, Google’s got its fingers in so many things that it’s hard to keep track of it all. Between its brand recognition and its deep pockets, Google has managed something of a tour de force — or a few of them — and taken the leading role in various areas of the technology industry. Here are just a few of the impressive things Google has been working on to go from the nifty company of the late 90′s to the truly revolutionary innovator of today.
7. Chrome OS and Android
Easily some of Google’s most well-known endeavors, its foray into operating systems has been well received worldwide. Though the Chrome operating system might have a little bit further to go to catch up to Android.
Any Google user knows about all the useful tools that come with an account. Between having a complete web browser, a full suite of office applications, email, maps, online storage, and much more, Google has created enough computer capability for most lay computer users. On top of that, it stuffed a lot of that into a netbook package that gives people a relatively affordable option for computers.
Then, of course, there’s Android. When Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) started the smartphone fad, Google didn’t wait long to jump in the game with its very own smartphone operating system. The search giant played a clever game by making the operating system open-source, thus appealing to original equipment manufacturers like Samsung (SSNLF.PK).
Between Google’s popularity, the pervasiveness of Android in all areas of the smartphone market — high-end, low-cost, small devices, large devices, and more — and the individual popularity of equipment manufacturers, Android was quickly able to become the world’s top smartphone operating system.
These products are impressive for their utility and worldwide reception, but they might not be as dazzling as some of Google’s other projects.
While it might also not be the most impressive of Google’s projects, it has the potential to be a pretty big deal. Chromecast is a simple plug-in device that could change the way we use our TVs.
The device allows other smartphones, laptops, and the like to control a TV and stream content from the devices through the TV.
If Chromecast gets enough popularity, it could sway the focus of television networks from traditional cable and satellite providers toward online streaming.
Even with the ability to reshape the TV programming environment, Chromecast falls low on the list of revolutionary products Google is working on.
5. A Smartwatch
The above image is not a sneak-peek of a Google smartwatch, but the word going around is that the company will soon be developing one to go head-to-head with all the others planned by companies like Samsung, LG Electronics, and rumored to be coming from Apple.
So far, Google’s made smartphones and tablets, following the trends of the market. If smartwatches catch on, it would make sense for Google to get into that business as well. TechCrunch reported that, in 2011, Google filed for a patent for a “smart watch” that would have touchscreen technology and some sort of flip feature, potentially a way to keep the device small on the wrist but flip up to a more manageable screen size. So, the device could end up looking a bit like the above image after all.
4. Airborne Wind Turbines
This might not qualify in the same way that the other projects do, as Google wasn’t the one heading the project from the very beginning. But, through a recent acquisition, Google has now taken charge of the green-energy project that looks to take to the skies.
The idea for wind energy has been around for some time, and in the right places, massive wind turbines can be seen decorating the landscape. But, those behemoth turbines are expensive and may not be the most effective way of collecting energy from the wind.
Makani Power was a start-up that worked hard to build an aircraft of sorts that soars up into the sky where the high-altitude winds can then spin a turbine. Power generated from the craft would then be transmitted down a wire attaching the craft to the ground and whatever it was powering. According to TechCrunch, Google had invested in the company multiple times in the past, but more recently went ahead and acquired it.
Now, Google may be at the forefront of green-energy initiatives.
3. Automatic Translation
Google has had its online translation tool around for years. Anyone who has used it for much more than simple phrases may have noted that not all translations go over flawlessly. However, Google has another translation project that might prove a bit more useful.
Reported on by The Verge, Hugo Barra — the vice president of Google’s Android unit — had a talk with The UK Times, in which he said Google has “tons of prototypes” for real-time translation that could enable conversations between two people with different native tongues. More exciting is that translation between some languages with a new system the company is working on has had “near-perfect” accuracy. English and Portuguese are two of the languages that it accurately translates between, which sounds promising for other romance languages as well.
This is a product that is in the early stages. So, while it may be something to get excited about, there could still be a significant wait before it becomes available to the public.
2. Cars That Drive Themselves
While they can’t be seen just anywhere, Google has a number of cars that have been driving around California the past few years. The interesting thing about them is that they drive themselves — no one steers, no one pushes the pedals, everyone is just a passenger.
By using a special suite of sensors, called LIDAR, the Google car is able to detect obstacles, other cars, people, and more. At that point, the computer brain can instruct the vehicle how to drive. It’s hard to imagine — perhaps it seems to futuristic for some, but the future is here — but the car has proven itself, with no accidents during more than 500,000 miles of driving that were the fault of the car. Once it was rear-ended by another car, and once a person put it into manual drive and got in a minor accident.
Unfortunately, there are no immediate plans to make the system commercially available. Considering the system would cost tens of thousands of dollars to put onto a car even if it was sold, it would be too expensive to change the way everyone drives.
1. Google Glass
These high-tech glasses might be one of the most exciting projects the company is working on. Firstly, because they resemble the sort of future seen in movies, creating a digital display as an overly to what we actually see. Secondly, because it has already been offered to the public on a small scale and is soon going to be available to everyone.
Google Glass is one of the biggest names in the move toward wearable gadgets. While many companies are eying smartwatches as a smart move for their business, very few have mentioned intentions to make glasses like Google’s. In this way, Google may not only be leading the industry, but it may have full command of the market.
Soon developers will have Android apps ready for Google Glass, which would only serve to make it a more viable product. It could prove to be the next generation of digital devices, replacing smartphones altogether.
Though some of Google’s projects may never become publicly available — or may at least be a long ways off — they all do a similar thing: show that Google is a powerhouse when it comes to innovation. When looking at future tech trends, all eyes should make sure to take a peek at what Google is doing. Being in the tech industry, proving itself as an innovator can’t be bad for Google’s business.
Follow Mark on Twitter @WallStMarkSheet
Don’t Miss: Can Google’s New Nexus 7 Dethrone the iPad Mini?