- The CEO of X announced today that Loon and Wing have graduated to fully-fledged companies.
- Loon uses balloons to bring internet access to unserved areas, while Wing focuses on object delivery via drone.
- Both companies are now Alphabet subsidiaries, like Nest, Waymo, Fiber, and Google itself.
X (formerly Google X) is a secretive company under the Alphabet umbrella that develops “moonshot” technology. Two of those moonshot enterprises – Loon and Wing – just graduated from X to become fully-fledged companies, standing with Google, Waymo, Google Fiber, Nest, and others.
The news comes directly from X’s CEO Astro Teller (or, as he prefers, “Captain of Moonshots”), who wrote about the graduations on his Medium blog.
Loon (formerly Project Loon) is a company that brings internet service to areas where typical infrastructure is too costly, impractical, or completely infeasible. It does this by connecting wireless routers to enormous balloons that float through the stratosphere.
Wing (formerly Project Wing) is focused on developing drone delivery technology to transport physical items efficiently over long distances. The autonomous flying vehicles can take off, fly, drop a payload, and return to a destination without the need for any human interaction.
Both Loon and Wing started as humanitarian-focused projects, built on the idea that under-developed areas should have access to essential items. However, now that they are both incorporated companies, Alphabet must see profitability in their future.
Some X projects graduate under the Alphabet umbrella – like Waymo, the self-driving car enterprise – while others graduate outside of Alphabet – like Dandelion, which sells geothermal energy to customers. However, some projects never make it out of the idea phase, like the idea for a space elevator or the development of personal jetpacks.
Unlike most development think tanks, projects that don’t make it off the ground at X are celebrated, as explained at a TED talk Astro Teller gave in 2016. According to Teller, staff members who create projects that are killed off for whatever reason are rewarded for their “failure.”
One wonders if the developers who were integral to the success of Loon and Wing are punished for their success? Food for thought.