There are increasing signs that Google may be hoping to use its mysterious fleet of ocean-going barges as some kind of high-tech, floating showrooms for Glass and other projects that come out of Google X – the top-secret division responsible for self-driving cars, Internet balloons and other wild ideas that Google is pursuing under the supervision of cofounder Sergey Brin.
That’s what TV station KPIX reported last night, citing unnamed sources, who said the four-story structures that Google has built on top of two barges will house luxurious, invitation-only showrooms “and a party deck.”
KPIX said one of its sources has been aboard the barge now docked at Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Local officials have told us – and other tech blogs – that Google has expressed interest in eventually docking the barge at San Francisco’s Fort Mason. A second barge with a similar four-story structure, owned by the same front company, has been spotted at ports in Connecticut and later Maine.
Since the story first broke on CNET last week, initial speculation centered on the possibility that Google might be building sea-faring computer centers, and that seemed logical based on the fact that Google obtained a patent for a floating data center back in 2009.
But here’s another clue that the project is tied to Google X. The Day newspaper of New London, Conn., got its hands on some Coast Guard records that show government inspectors met in July with shipbuilding contractors who were working on the East Coast barge. Among those participating in one conference call was a Google representative identified in Coast Guard files as “Michael Tierney, Google Glass.”
The Day also reported:
The purpose of the vessel is not described in the documents, but they reveal a plan to operate the vessel in various ports, the first being New York Harbor.
Google has been ramping up efforts to promote the wearable Internet gadget it calls Glass, which until now has only been sold to a limited audience. The company invited early buyers to pick up their Glass device in a luxurious San Francisco office, where they were served champagne and snacks while getting a fitting and demonstration of the product.
Glass is expected to go on wider sale in coming months. And we know that Brin likes to make a marketing splash – remember that he first unveiled Glass with a spectacular sky-diving stunt last year.
A Google representative declined comment on the project, again. But it’s looking more and more like the company is spending millions of dollars on a very unusual marketing project.
(Photo of the barge at Treasure Island by Nhat V. Meyer, Bay Area News Group)