Alphabet’s deep pockets provide enough possibilities to follow up on news items, such as the elimination of over 12,000 positions at the company’s numerous subsidiaries. One example is how the team working on the upcoming Fuchsia OS and other projects in Google’s Area 120 incubator have faced proportionally bigger layoffs. Now we know what will survive from Area 120 and that an attack might be mounted against platforms like Instagram and TikTok.
Area 120 is informed by Google Labs’ VP Clay Bavor that the lab will focus exclusively on AI-related applications, with only three ongoing projects: Aloud, a video-based foreign language overdub tool; Checks, a privacy compliance aide for app makers; and a project aimed at Generation Z users led by the team that developed a third-party app called Liist.
According to Bavor, “Area 120 has been a source of bottom-up innovation throughout Google for over seven years, and from it we’ve learnt numerous lessons on how best to pursue zero-to-one chances.” Due to the extraordinary possibilities that lie ahead, however, we must adopt a more opinionated and targeted approach to new product creation.
While several ideas from Area 120, such GameSnacks and TouringBird, were integrated into preexisting products like Google Chrome, Cloud, Commerce, Search, and Shopping, it seems that Aloud and Checks have the most promise as stand-alone solutions.
The Liist-led initiative stands out as an outlier, especially when Google acquired Liist in stealth mode the previous year. Google has admitted that Instagram and TikTok are eating its lunch by diverting visitors away from its Search-related products, but its app still allows users to bookmark parks, museums, hotels, restaurants, and anything else they’ve seen across social media.
Bavor informs his employees that Area 120 would be managed by Managing Partner Elias Roman. Roman will also report to Josh Woodward, the Senior Director of Product Management at Google Labs, and will be responsible for a variety of “applied AI” initiatives.
It would appear like a race is on to make people feel comfortable buying artificially intelligent items. We’ll have to wait and see if Google’s capabilities extend beyond harmless stunts and potential human resources fiascos.
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