'Curing death' and other semi-secret projects that Pichai will oversee as Alphabet’s CEO

The 'Everyday Robot' project is developing a general-purpose learning robot under Alphabet's research and development arm, X.X
  • As Alphabet's new CEO, Sundar Pichai is will be looking after more than just Google.
  • He will also at the helm of Alphabet's Other Bets division, which hones research and development.
  • Its undertakings include developing neural networks, 'curing death', internet-beaming balloons and other semi-secret projects.
As Google's co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, step down from their posts at Alphabet, Sundar Pichai will now be at the helm of the world's fifth-largest tech company. And, he'll be looking after more than just Google.

Google is Alphabet's largest subsidiary but it has a whole other division for its research and development ventures called Other Bets. The secondary division includes experimental projects like self-driving cars, health-tech — like smart contact lenses — and venture capital investments.

Overall Alphabet has 13 other mini-companies under its umbrella, aside from Google.

But, the Other Bets division hasn't been faring too well of late. In 2018, it posted a loss of $3.4 billion. Meanwhile, Alphabet has been pouring more money into Google's cloud business which meant less investment toward Other Bets.

Here's a list of the projects that Pichai will now be looking after:
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X

X

X develops internet beaming balloons (Source: X)

X is Alphabet's 'semi-secret' research and development arm, and its main objective is to develop 'moonshot' technologies. According to the company, a moonshot is something that solves big problems, is a radical solution and delivers breakthrough technology.

X has been the incubator for a lot of projects that now aligned with Google — including but not limited to Google Glass, Google Contact Lenses, Google Brain, Google Watch and Chronicle.

Other projects matured to become companies of their own under Alphabet like Verily, Waymo, Loon, Makani, and Wing among others.

Jigsaw

Jigsaw

Rafael Marques De Moraisz, a journalist in Angola who runs Maka Angola, one of the largest independent news site in the country partnered with Jigsaw's Project Shield (Source: Google Blog)

Jigsaw was created as Alphabet's 'think tank' division in 2016. The main aim of the company is to use technology to solve geopolitical problems like data privacy, extremism, online harassment and censorship.

Some of Jigsaw's projects include Perspective — “a new tool for web publisher to identify toxic comments that can undermine a civil exchange of ideas” — and Project Shield, an anti-DDoS service that the company provides for free to websites that have “media, elections and human rights related content”.

Sidewalk Labs

Sidewalk Labs

Rendering of Sidewalk Lab's plans for Parliament Plaza along Toronto's eastern waterfront (Source: Sidewalk Labs Toronto)

Where Jigsaw solves the world's 'big problems', Sidewalk Labs focuses on the neighborhood. Its goal is to improve urban infrastructure using technology. The company tackles issues around the cost of living, energy demand and efficient transportation.

For instance, the company is currently working with the US Department of Transportation to develop a transportation coordination platform. In order to improve the efficiency of road, parking and transit use, Sidewalk Labs uses data gathered from smartphones to identify troublesome traffic conditions — like bottlenecks and congestion.

Last June, the company also submitted its proposal to revamp for Toronto’s eastern waterfront.

DeepMind

DeepMind

Sundar Pichai and some of the top players in China -- Ke Jie, Nie Weiping, Fan Hui and Gu Li (right to left) -- recreate the opening moves of AlphaGo's game against Lee Sedol (Source:DeepMind)

Alphabet's DeepMind focuses its research solely on artificial intelligence (AI). It was acquired by Google in 2014 and later made an independent subsidiary under Alphabet.

DeepMind made headlines back in 2016 after its AlphaGo program beat professional Go player, Lee Sedol — the world champion — in a five-game match.


Among the company's biggest successes was creating a neural network that learns how to play videos like humans. It also created the Neural Turing Machine — a neural network that can access external memory resulting in a computer that mimics short-term memory in humans.

Calico

Calico

(Source: TIME)

Calico — which stands for California Life Company — was launched in 2013 and its objective was to 'cure death'. It's one of Google's biggest investments but as of 2018, it has yet to develop any known drugs or biotech products — even with $2.5 billion in funding.

The company's current programs focus on diseases in oncology and neurosciences to develop drugs to fight various cancers or Alzheimer's.

Google Fiber

Google Fiber

Google Fiber employees installing internet service in Provo, US (Source: Google Fiber)

Google Fiber is the company's broadband company, which currently operates in eighteen regions across the US. It provides free internet connectivity of up to 5 MBPS in each of its markets.

Even though it continues to provide service in areas where it's already present, expansion plans for 11 addition cities were put on hold in 2016 when CEO Craig Barratt left the company.

Yesterday, it scrapped its 100MBPS broadband plans. Now, Fiber will only offer speeds of up to 1 GBS, which can download a full movie in less than two minutes.

Starting tomorrow, Fiber will roll out a partnership with YouTube that'll let customers sign up for YouTube TV at the same time they sign up for Google Fiber.

Wing

Wing

Wing's delivery drone carrying a medium sized parcel (Source: Wing)

Project Wing was X's brainchild — from the days when the division was called Google X. It completed its first set of drone-based deliveries in 2014. Then In 2018, Wing became an entity of its own, under Alphabet.

Its drones are designed specifically from small parcel delivery. The company has built-in multiple redundancies so that even if the drone was to malfunction, it would have backup systems to complete its flight.

Earlier this year, the company was the first to acquire an air operator's certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It can now operate as an airline within the US.

Waymo

Waymo

Waymo's fleet of autonomous cars (Source: Waymo)

X spent 7.5 years to develop fully autonomous vehicles until eventually, the self-driving car unit became its own independent company under Alphabet called Waymo.

Waymo — short for 'way forward in mobility' — aims to make it “safe and easy for every to get around — without the need for anyone in the driver's seat”.

The self-driving car service is yet to launch commercially but has conducted road tests in the US.

​Loon

​Loon

Loon's internet beaming balloons (Source: X)
Another X brainchild, Loon is in the process of launching a network of balloons to provide internet access to underserved areas around the world. These internet-beaming balloons using special antennas to provide bandwidth from the Earth's stratosphere.

Rather than fight over airspace, the company announced that the service would act as a temporary base station. Mobile operators around the world could lease Loon's internet as the balloons flew over their country.

Earlier this year, the company announced that its fleet of balloons that completed one million hours of slight in the stratosphere — that wasn't without a few incidents. Multiple Loon balloons have crashed over the years and been spotted in farms and lawns across the world.

​Verily

​Verily

Smart contact lenses (Source: X)
Verily, formerly known as Google Life Sciences, focuses on healthcare and disease prevention.

Its current projects include developing a stabilising spoon for patients with tremors, smart shoes that can call for help if you fall, and contact lenses that can monitor glucose levels.

Makani

Makani

Makani's self-flying kites (Source: X)

Makani is the newest kid on the block. Developed by X, the company was spun off into an Alphabet subsidiary in February, earlier this earlier.

'Makani' means wind in Hawaiian, which appropriate since it develops wind turbines, or in this case, energy kites. The aim of these self-flying kites is to capture energy from deep-sea winds, which are found in places that are difficult to access. In order to do that, they're tethered to a base station, which is a floating platform in the water.

And from the platform, the kites can navigate out over the ocean to up to 430 meters.

GV

GV

GV’s Guide to UX Research for Startups (Source:GV)

GV, formerly known as Google Ventures, is one of Alphabet's investment arms. The venture capital firm is looking to invest in tech startups that dabble in a variety of fields — from AI, cybersecurity, and software to transportation and agriculture.

Some of its investments include Uber, Lime, and Slack. Even Nest was in its portfolio before Google acquired it in 2014.

CapitalG

CapitalG

CarDekho team (Source: Capital G)

Where GV focuses on startups, CapitalG invests in bigger technology companies. Also unlike GV, Capital G invests for profit rather than strategic reasons.

Since its inception, when it used to be known as Google Capital, Capital G has invested in over 25 companies. Lyft, Airbnb, Snap Inc, Glassdoor, Duolingo and even India's own CarDekho have come under its umbrella at one point or another.

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