Google turns to India for moonshot ideas

Varun Aggarwal Mumbai | Updated on January 23, 2018

JACK HIDARY, Senior advisor at Google X

Search engine giant set to launch XPrize contest, offer winners millions of dollars

Whether it is using low-cost technology to provide clean water, or building a robot that can shoot videos on the moon, Google is turning to Indian developers for solutions. 

Google X, the secret lab operated by the internet giant’s newly created holding company, Alphabet, is about to start a multi-million dollar contest in India. Called XPrize, the contest will encourage people to come up with innovative ways to deal with complex problems. 

“The first XPrize in India will be around clean water. It will be around how to provide clean water in India in a scalable way. It is a significant challenge in India. The biggest problem with the clean water challenge in India is the lack of reliable energy because you need energy to clean water,” Jack Hidary, senior advisor at Google X, told BusinessLine.  

From India to the world

Google has also set up its first XPrize officeoutside the US in Mumbai to capture unique ideas. These ideas, while originating in India, could then be replicated in other parts of the world. 

“When you put out a prize of millions of dollars and people compete, we have found that innovation comes through…. We have done that with the XPrize for space and the automotive XPrize,” Hidary said.

Indians have already been participating in other XPrize competitions organised by Google. Currently, two teams from India have reached the final round of the Google Lunar XPrize or the Lunar Moonshot competition. “Moonshot Express and Team Indus are two Indian teams competing for $25 million to make a robot, land it on moon, shoot a video and send it back. They’ll get another million dollars if they are able to spot the American flag on the moon,” Hidary said.

Hidary is helping Google organise hackathons in India to find moonshot ideas.  The first such hackathon was organised in Bengaluru last week, and six ideas were shortlisted.

Some of these ideas could become a part of Google and the company could partly fund some of them, Hidary said.

Other projects

Some of Google’s moonshot ideas include its self-driving car and drone delivery projects and project Loon, which will provide internet service via balloons in the stratosphere. 

“India is a moonshot economy. The problems here are unique and the people here can solve them with ideas that have to be non-linear. India doesn’t need to follow the West and replicate their mistakes in order to grow and improve,” Hidary said.

Published on October 23, 2015

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