Google X's jetpacks foiled by power inefficiency and noise

Google X, the technology company's secret lab, is tasked with the challenging job of inventing the future. From Google Glass to self-driving cars, Google X is bringing our sci-fi fantasies to life. Recently, the lab admitted to trying to design a space elevator (and failing). And now, its leader says it also tried to build jetpacks.

At the recent TechCrunch Disrupt, Google X's "captain of moonshots" Astro Teller said the lab researched jetpacks and that "it turns out you can make a jetpack that's not a death trap."

"The problem isn't that," said Teller. "The real problem is that it was gonna be so power inefficient, it was gonna get like a fourth of the mile to the gallon." Teller added that he couldn't "live" with that.

Also jetpacks would be loud. Very loud. 

"It was going to be probably about as loud as a motorcycle and I didn't think other people were going to be okay with that," said Teller. "I'm not sure society is going to be cool when you zoom over people's houses." So much for jetpacks then. I guess we can file this under Google X's "never gonna happen (for now)" pile that includes levitation a teleportation.

Don't be so bummed out though. In order to focus on stuff that works and is actually practical, Google X "turns off 100 things a year." That is, it rejects a lot of stuff very early on in the research and development cycle, in order to prevent dozens of half-baked duds. No point in pursuing "moonshots" that aren't worth it, right? (As much as us geeks would love to see teleportation and space elevators...) The experiments that are deemed practical will then move on to more research and development and (hopefully) become consumer products. Glass and self-driving cars are two of Google X's successful projects that have moved out of the lab to become real-world products.

So, no to jetpacks for now. Ask again in 50 years?


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