The bit of Google/Alphabet that tries out new stuff reckons its getting the hang of using balloons to deliver connectivity, sort of.
Google seems to spend as much time trying to think of smart-arse names for its divisions as anything else these days. The holding company is now called Alphabet, apparently just so it could use the URL abc.xyz, and the division responsible for more speculative ventures – or moonshots as they insist on calling them – is just called X. It’s like watching an episode of Sesame Street.
And it doesn’t stop there. The person in charge of X has the job title: Captain of Moonshots and his name is Astro Teller, so perhaps it’s more like Sesame Street meets Big Bang Theory. Astro blogged recently about failure being a necessary condition of moonshot-taking, which stands to reason as the more speculative a venture the greater the risk of failure.
Having established the concept of failure being a key component of success, Astro proceeded to explain why Google’s plan to use balloons to deliver wireless connectivity is going really well. Inevitably 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.
To help us mere mortals get our heads around the genius of the concept Astro provided the following handy before-and-after illustrations.
Moving from a blanket coverage to a local clustering model means you need to use less balloons and they’re quicker to set up so, you see, the failure of the original plan is actually a massive success! Astro sums this doublethink up with the following mantra: “Failing to fail…and then accelerating our success.”
There was lots more talk about how hard it is to use balloons for connectivity and inferences that therefore any success is evidence of extreme cleverness. Astro seems to think this geostationary model can deliver viable commercial services and has managed to keep some lurking over Peru for months. It’s hard to conclude whether or not Project Loon will ever be anything more substantial than a moonshot but goddamit it’s clever.