This is a fascinating glimpse of Google’s R&D organization, known as X. What I found most fascinating, was the coverage of one of the earliest X moonshots, Project Loon:
Loon took the spotlight in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which knocked out power and communications for nearly all of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents.
Before the storm, Project Loon’s team had been working on an AI-based navigation system that can keep high-altitude balloons over a given area for weeks or months at a time to provide aerial internet connections. Peru was the primary testing ground, and Puerto Rico was one of the launch sites. After the hurricane hit, the focus shifted to filling the gap in Puerto Rico. The team quickly worked out arrangements with Puerto Rico’s government and federal authorities as well as AT&T and T-Mobile to boost connectivity.
X says Project Loon is currently providing basic internet connectivity for more than 100,000 people in Puerto Rico.
Loon may not be as well known as Google’s self-driving vehicle project, Waymo, but Project Loon has achieved a real-world impact.