Imagine a future where you can settle back with a nice mug of coffee during your commute while your car navigates on its own.
According to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, such a future is practically here.
The Associated Press reports that during Schmidt's keynote on Tuesday at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, Spain, the former CEO said, "People who predict that holograms and self-driving cars will become reality soon are absolutely right."
“Driverless cars are a lot closer than you think," he went on to say, per AllThingsD's live blog of the talk.
Some U.S. states are already preparing for the presence of these futuristic vehicles. Nevada recently became the first to approve requirement regulations for autonomous cars.
In addition, a number of other organisations, including the Free University of Berlin (Germany), Volvo, BMW and Google itself, are at the forefront of the innovations behind so-called self-driving cars.
The company first revealed that it had developed autonomous vehicles in an October 2009 blog post, writing, "Our automated cars, manned by trained operators, just drove from our Mountain View campus to our Santa Monica office and on to Hollywood Boulevard."
The company may also be looking to hire specialized employees to continue work on this project. Business Insider pointed out on Monday that in the last few weeks, the company posted several open positions on its local "Jobs" listing page: Automotive System Test Engineer, System Test Engineer for Special Projects and Industrial Designer for Special Projects, among others. While none of the listings' descriptions explicitly mention driverless cars, they all stress the need for automotive engineering skills.
And these aren't the only cool jobs opening up at Google. On Monday, Wired reported that the company was looking for augmented-reality experts to work on "Terminator"-style augmented reality glasses, which the company is rumored working on. Wired points out that Google doesn't state that these positions are related to the glasses, but that the ads list "augmented reality mapping, geo-location and real time interaction" as top priorities.
Familiarity with augmented-reality mapping is only the first hurdle applicants for these positions will need to clear. Google has a notoriously tough hiring process in which, according to a study by job and career review site Glassdoor.com, applicants are asked questions like, "How many people are using Facebook in San Francisco at 2:30pm on a Friday?" and "A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?" (Visit The Wall Street Journal, for more brain-buster Google interview questions and answers.)
Check out some of Google's other most experimental projects (below).
The now-ubiquitous Gmail -- Google's email product -- was unlike any previous email service when it was introduced in 2004. It featured way more storage space (1 GB per user), search capability within your email, and conversion view, which groups together all replies to the original message to keep the conversation in a single thread. It also included a built-in chat service. CORRECTION: An earlier version of this slide stated the Gmail was launched in 2007. It was actually launched in 2004.
Google worked with NASA researchers to create a detailed, digital map of the planet Mars. Google Mars works similarly to Google Earth -- except you're navigating around a far-off planet. Users can explore regions, mountains, plains, canyons, craters and other elements.
Google Sky, the outer space version of Google Earth, is a way to explore the sky from your computer or mobile device. Click the Sky button on the Google Earth toolbar and you can see constellations, the moon, the planets, and user guides giving information on each. And, of course, there's a search bar to locate whatever part of the sky you're looking for. If you're unfamiliar, this YouTube video gives a good guide.
Google Reader is a web-based news aggregator. It utilizes RSS feeds and included sharing capability until October, 2011, when this feature was disabled and replaced with a Google+ button.
Google Moderator ranks user-submitted questions that come in during an online discussion. It was first created to help moderate the company's tech talks, and was later used by President Barack Obama's team to sift through Americans' questions for the newly elected president. It works like this: Participants can submit questions or ideas, and other participants vote on them. This crowdsourcing technique helps identify the questions and ideas with the most support or interest from the group.
Google Body allowed users to navigate through 3D anatomical models of the human body. Google Body ceased operation in Oct. 2011 -- when Google Labs shut down -- and will relaunch as Zygote Body. Zygote Body will be a searchable, interactive 3D model of human anatomy. Check out this video for a look at the former Google Body.
Google Docs, a web-based office suite that includes word documents, spreadsheets and other formats, was innovative for a few reasons. One, the documents are accessible from any computer or device. Two, they're collaborative: You can share documents with coworkers or friends and read or edit them simultaneously. The docs also automatically save as you go, protecting the work from browser crashes or other accidents. Google Docs is a combination of two previous company projects: Google Spreadsheets and a web-based processor, Writely. There have been several iterations in the past five years, with the mostly completed version announced in 2010.
Google Goggles is on the cutting-edge of visual search. The product enables users to search with images instead of words -- basically you take a picture of something, and Google will recognize it and pull up search results on it. See a demonstration here.
A November New York Times piece gave a glimpse into Google's super-secret "Google X" lab, where the company is dreaming up innovative ideas for the future, like elevator that goes to outer space, driverless cars, and all manner of robots. In January 2012, Google announced an experimental lecture forum called "Solve For X," with an aim at solving "moonshot thinking." As Google explained in a blog post, the project will "take on global-scale problems, define radical solutions to those problems, and involve some form of breakthrough technology that could actually make them happen."