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What Google is Making Space for at the Googleplex

The search and ad giant is building new labs and its own corporate theme park.
February 13, 2012

Google is remodeling its Mountain View headquarters – aka the Googleplex – and public records filed with the city government suggest the company is doing more than just upgrading its water coolers. Architects provided a surprising amount of detail about new technology in development at Google in the filings (which are sadly not available online), the San Jose Mercury news reported. Here’s a guess at what the real story is behind the hints about secret labs and a new Google-branded gadget that will take control of your home.

  • Electronically shielded labs to test a new consumer device known as “@home” that streams music or data to other household appliances.

This is probably related to the Android@Home project that was shown off at Google’s IO conference last summer in the form of prototypes known as “Tungstens” (one is pictured above). Each was a black box connected to the Web intended to take control of your home electronics, such as lighting or music equipment. In a demo, a Tungsten flickered and dimmed the lights in a room to make playing a game on an Android tablet more immersive, and streamed music over the Internet. The Wall Street Journal ran an anonymously-sourced story late last week about Tungsten’s that stream music heading to stores.

  • Improved labs for “Project X”, which the Mercury News says “includes the use of rare gases like argon, a plasma cleaner that can scrub materials of contaminants, and arcane optical-coating technology, city records show.”

This could be equipment needed to make prototype wearable displays built into eyeglasses, which the NYT reported Google was working on back in December. Optical coating technology would be used in the eyeglass lenses and the optical components that project images into the eye. Plasma cleaning is used in labs and workshops to get delicate components spotlessly clean without having to use solvents or physically rubbing stuff off them. It uses argon, and is used for chips and other components in electronics.

  • A 120,000-square-foot private museum to be called the “Google Experience Center”, which filings said would be “to share visionary ideas, and explore new ways of working” with up to 900 guests. Unfortunately for most of us, the Mercury News quotes the filings as adding, “the Experience Center would not typically be open to the public – consisting of invited groups, and guests whose interests will be as vast as Google’s range of products, and often confidential.”

Rather than suggesting wild new projects, this seems to be a case of Google growing up. Many of Silicon Valley’s tech giants, such as Cisco, HP and Oracle, have built showrooms that preview homes, businesses and other environments centered on their products. Google needs its own corporate theme park to seek more business from governments and corporations – and to tempt them away from competitors.

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