Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group was reportedly working in a secret project that would see battery life improvements on mobile devices by 5 to 10 times, before it was killed off according to the Wall Street Journal.
Google skunkworks division
Google’s ATAP is basically a kind of ‘skunkworks’ division within the search giant, where the Project Ara modular smartphone and Project Tango 3D mapping projects were also born. Research teams operate under a methodology in which projects that don’t produce results are killed off within two years.
The battery life project apparently didn’t even get those two years, and instead was killed after just nine months, according to an ex-Google ATAP researcher. It just was not good enough and the lab had to move on.
This kind of scrap-it-if-it-doesn’t-work system was created at Google by Dr Regina Dugan, an ex-military DARP chief who came to Google when the company purchased Motorola in 2012. The projects are not only killed after two years, but the project managers that are in charge of them are ‘let go’ (fired!). That’s supposed to create a sense of urgency that means the researchers have to make the most of their time.
Google ATAP is a very different programme to Google X, another secret arm that gave birth to the self-driving car, Google Internet balloons, and Google Glass. ATAP is dedicated to mobile technology, whereas Google X covers much broader, longer term projects.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has been a very vocal supporter of Dr Dugan and her methods, saying how quickly it can bring the experiments to a new home elsewhere in Google, or just cut the losses and move onto other promising projects.
Project Ara, the modular smartphone with interchangeable components, was granted an extension on its two year deadline because it’s actually being tested in Puerto Rich and shows great promise, apparently.
Let’s hope that Google resurrects the smartphone battery life program, or at least that some other companies launch some technological improvements soon, that could make our phones last more than a day or two.