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Google reveals its 'X' lab considered building a jetpack

While the world awaits new products in new categories in development from Apple, Google has offered a glimpse into its own secretive "X" lab, revealing that it considered creating a user-safe jetpack before scrapping the concept.


Sean Connery as James Bond donning a jetpack in "Thunderball."


Unannounced or scrapped projects considered and developed under secrecy at Apple's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters almost never see the light of day. But Google X head Astro Teller doesn't have that same extreme secrecy policy, as he revealed some of his department's past projects in a talk at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York on Tuesday, according to CNet.
Google X is the company's skunkworks division, focused on ambitious or strange concepts that may never see the light of day.
As home to some of the company's most ambitious — and sometimes strangest — potential products, Google X is most famously the birthplace for Glass, Google's developer-only head-mounted display accessory.

But in its early days, the Google X lab considered building a user-safe jetpack, Teller revealed. The hope was to build a wearable personal traveling device that "wasn't a death trap."

The project was eventually scrapped because of power inefficiency. According to Teller, such a device would also be "loud as a motorcycle."

The Google X head revealed that the labs reject "easily" 100 proposed concepts every year. Google's "X" division is focused on making technology more personal and useful.

Google's candor stands in stark contrast to Apple's legendary secrecy. Late company co-founder Steve Jobs once proclaimed that he was just as proud of products that Apple considered but never shipped as he was of devices that were actually made available to consumers.

iPad Prototypes

Prototype iPad designs with kickstand.


A rare glimpse into Apple's labs did come about as a result of the company's patent infringement litigation with rival Samsung. Pictures of early, unreleased iPhone and iPad prototypes were shown in court documents in an effort to prove that Apple toyed with many potential designs before settling on the final look of its popular portable devices.

In particular, early iPad prototypes included a dedicated kickstand that would allow the tablet to be propped up for use.

Though Apple has never publicly shown interest in anything quite as outlandish as a jetpack, some of the company's pie-in-the-sky concepts have been revealed over the years through patent filings. Among those were a pair of smart shoes that would notify a user when they need replacing, a dynamic touchscreen with an articulating frame that could provide users tactile feedback when typing, and a solar-powered MacBook with touch-sensitive surfaces all over its exterior.