It’s hard to remember a time before “google” was a verb—before the company launched in January 1996 as a research project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, PhD students at Stanford University.
Fast forward to February 2016, and Google parent Alphabet became the world’s most valuable publicly traded company.
Alphabet owns Nest and Google Fiber, venture capital arms GV (formerly Google Ventures) and Google Capital, as well as projects like self-driving car pilots, the Calico health initiative, and other speculative projects, aka “moonshots.”
But at its core, search results, YouTube, and advertising remain the key drivers in the brand’s growth, while Gmail has crossed the 1 billion monthly active users mark. Programmatic video impressions doubled over past year with 60 percent generated from mobile devices, and Google’s ad revenue increased nearly 17 percent to $19.08 billion, while paid clicks rose 31 percent.
“Google began 2015 as a giant advertising company connected to a collection of intriguing science projects,” Analyst Conor Dougherty told the New York Times. “Alphabet ended the year as a collection of intriguing science projects connected to a highly profitable advertising business.”
In May, CEO Sundar Pichai joined colleagues at Google I/O 2016 in Mountain View, California, to deliver a message: machine learning and AI have the potential to change everything. Combined, they will both power and connect search, visual, and voice recognition into a seamless experience.
Its latest product releases reflect that message:
Google Home is a wireless speaker that connects users to Google Now, is compatible with Chromecast, and enables voice access to Google from your living room or smartphone. Google Home lets users “ask anything they want.”
Google Assistant, the next generation of search, is a mash-up of voice search and Google Now, supporting “conversational understanding” to make search more natural and better support voice searches. “It’s not enough to give them links,” said Pichai. “We really need to help them get things done in the real world. This is why we’re evolving search to be more assistive.”
Google Allo is a messaging app with Google Assistant built in that lets users change text size, gives smart replies as Google’s mail app “Inbox” does, anticipates users’ responses, generates suggestions, and recognizes images people send.
Google Duo is Google’s companion app for Allo that adds video calling, and is the only mobile-first, mobile-only video calling app for Android and iOS that lets users see the incoming video call feed before answering, switches seamlessly between cellular and Wi-Fi connections, and adjusts video and audio in real-time based on when available bandwidth increases or decreases.
Google Daydream is an optimized virtual reality platform that aims to standardize the mobile-based VR experience. Launched two years after Cardboard, Daydream has designs for a new controller with fewer buttons, a touchpad, and tracking sensors for orientation.
Android Wear 2.0’s first product is a Levi’s Commuter Trucker jacket designed with Google’s Jacquard technology, enabling cyclists to wirelessly access their phone and mobile apps to adjust volume, silence a call or get an estimated ETA on their destination.
“It’s a complete shift from making electronics and attaching them to things to actually creating materials which are interactive by their definition,” said Google’s Project Jacquard lead, Ivan Poupyrev.
Google’s name is a play on the word “googol,” a mathematical term for the number represented by the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros. With their goal of organizing an infinite amount of data online, the number of new ventures and forms this mission can take is seeming just as numerous.