March 9, 2017
Google’s Project Loon (floating wireless transmitters on balloons) is back in the news. Alphabet, Google’s holding company, is really a bit of a Disneyland for inventors. For example, it’s latest propaganda move is to talk about “moonshots” – various schemes that may seem a bit, well, loony, like their balloon ideas. Some are doomed to failure from the get-go, but if you have as much money as Google, you can afford to be a bit eclectic.
In fact, there is a bit of humor in this. the person in charge has the title of “Captain of Moonshots” and his name is Astro Teller – for real! And he has an interesting philosophy; failure is a necessary condition of moonshot-taking, ergo the more speculative a venture the greater the risk of failure.
Interesting position. Now the concept of failure becomes a key component of success. That may be why Teller is trying float the notion that using balloons to deliver wireless connectivity is going really well.
I haven’t seen any Google balloons yet, but Teller says that it all comes down to clever algorithms, in this case ones that can control these balloons such that they form geostationary clusters rather than just floating around at the mercy of air currents. This kind of model is much closer to being a viable commercial service and there are a few up in the air, so to speak, over Peru. Perhaps this is their beta test.
Google has more than its share of off-the-wall ideas. So far, none of them have hit it big so it’s hard to draw any conclusions about Project Loon, or any of the other variants, being anything other than just another moonshot. But it must be a blast working for that company.