The Revolutionary 'Moon Shots' Google Is Working On Right Now

Larry PageGetty Images/Justin SullivanGoogle CEO Larry Page

People love Google because of the many ways it has made our lives better.

With search, it put the apparent sum of human knowledge a keystroke away.

Google Maps made driving directions and transit routes accessible and reliable.

Gmail made email a less horrendous experience and forced AOL, Yahoo, and others to improve their offerings for millions of users.

Now, CEO Larry Page has decided to take on challenges that will actually change the world, not just your laptop.

From self-driving cars that will reduce traffic fatalities to biotech research aimed at combating ageing, these “moon shots” could change how we think about and use technology on a daily basis.

Google is on the cusp of revolutionizing transportation with its driverless cars: Thanks to the technology, we could see a huge drop in the number of traffic fatalities each year, reduced road congestion, and increased fuel efficiency. The only problem: The equipment installed on Google's test cars costs about $US150,000.

It's almost hard to believe, but two-thirds of the world's population doesn't have access to the Internet. Google's solution? Put balloons in the upper atmosphere that can cover a wider range than any cell phone tower and be deployed fast enough to replace damaged infrastructure after disasters.

With Google Fibre, Google has given U.S. Internet service providers a reason to invest in improving their offerings. Just as broadband gave us YouTube, Netflix, and video chat, the jump to Gigabit Internet speeds will allow for the creation of entirely new categories of startups. And the basic Fibre offering is free!

Google Now's active assistance is a bold new take on the company's services: Rather than passively waiting for you to search for something, it learns from your habits, searches, and email and notifies you with information you might want. After a few weeks of use, it will set reminders to watch shows you like and recommend restaurants when you're walking around town at night. While it sounds creepy now, the changes to notifications in Apple's iOS 7 suggest it's likely to become the standard.

As we saw on the Moto X, Google is interested in listening to our surroundings in order to make finding information (using Google services) even easier.

Google Glass similarly listens for commands. By integrating this technology with Google Now, Google is building a future where we have instant access to relevant information based on what we can see and hear.

Google Glass also allows for real-time language translation. This means that two people who speak entirely different languages could communicate in person without a translator. It also means that those travelling internationally will be able to look at signs in different languages and instantly understand them.

In the aftermath of major disasters, Google's Crisis Response team does an assessment of the situation and figures out how to best deploy Google's ample resources to help those in need. By helping people find their loved ones and access life-saving resources, Google has shown the world how technology companies can do more for the world than simply building fancy gadgets and more efficient apps for work.

Google hopes to take on ageing and even death with the launch of its new startup, 'Calico,' which is short for 'California Life Company.' It's going to be headed by Arthur Levinson, a chairman and ex-CEO at biotech giant Genentech and chairman at Apple.

Android is a major driver of Google's recent success...

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