Google Launches Project Loon in Attempt to Fill Internet Black Holes

The massive popularity of Google, the largest internet search engine in the world, has allowed that company to expand far beyond their basic business model. Web searching has clearly become a means to an end for Google, providing them with nearly boundless financial resources and a massive consumer market for their other efforts. This unique situation has led to some startling innovations by the tech giant. People have been long anticipating Google Glasses, the fully portable interactive internet portal and virtual reality device that you wear just like a standard set of glasses. Probably even more striking than that innovation is Google’s autonomous driving project, a partnership with Prius that is currently leading the charge towards testing and fully legalizing self-driving vehicles for our country’s roads. But one development you might not have heard much about is Project Loon. This wild innovation may well fill the world’s internet black holes.

The general structure of Project Loon might sound like something out of a science fiction novel. Google has created a grid of giant balloons that run completely off of solar power. They’re going to launch them simultaneously, sending the balloons up into a holding pattern on the very edge of the earth’s atmosphere. The result they are hoping for is the ability to link the entire world to internet access that’s uninterrupted and inexpensive. Project Loon may sound crazy, but Google is dead serious, and expects if they are effective the result will be truly historic.

According to a blog post by Mike Cassidy, the lead developer on Project Loon, the process is still very much in the early stages. The balloons will be carried up to their post at the edge of outer space by the wind, where they will settle in at an altitude that’s twice what commercial planes experience. The internet access the Project Loon balloons beam back down to earth will be comparable to a 3G network, or possibly even better. If it works, and Cassidy promises there is very real science behind the entire process, then the most remote, disconnected parts of the planet would immediately have fast and easy access. It will also be available to help recovery coordinate efforts in areas hit by natural disasters, when quick response is frequently difficult but hugely important.

The blogosphere has been blowing up with the news, and the unique introductory video that Google posted on their site. Project Loon has been universally praised as an exciting initiative. The idea of internet service across the world with no gaps is astonishing, especially when you think about how long it took us to build up the infrastructure we currently employ. But some bloggers are also cautioning that you don’t hand Google a humanitarian award quite yet. There is a very real profit to be made in this space. If Google can trump the otherĀ broadband service providers in the world, there isn’t much stopping them from creating the most powerful monopoly that’s ever been seen. Only time will tell if Project Loon will actually be successful. Google is starting with balloons launched over New Zealand’s Canterbury region, which should be a solid area for testing the validity of this program as a long term solution.

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