May 24, 2013, 11:05 AM — Did you hear about Google's acquisition of a company that makes a 26-foot-long electricity-generating kite this week? As part of its Google X anything-goes research and development arm that would make Tony Stark jealous, Google snatched up Makani Power, the maker of the kite.
If you think turbine kites sound like a strange investment for Google that's just the tip of the bizarre iceberg. Over the years Google has invested via Google X, Google Ventures, and other philanthropic arms in everything from drones that hunt down wildlife poachers, space travel, to a human-powered monorail. Here is a quick look at some of Google's most far-out and ambitious investments that make Google Glass and its self-driving car program sound downright prosaic.
(Image Credit: Makani Power)
Bloomberg Businessweek's Brad Stone has an excellent article on Google's investment in Makani Power and Google X. Google bought the company for an undisclosed amount of money. According to Makani its Airborne Wind Turbine system is a tethered "wing" that has light-weight turbines attached to it. The carbon-fiber kite flies in circles as high as 2000 feet where air currents are more consistent. Electricity generated by the turbines would travel down the tethering cord.
Human powered monorail
(Image Credit: Shweeb )
In 2008, as part of its Project 10 to the 100 campaign, Google gave $1 million to Shweeb to create human-powered vehicles designed to travel short to medium distance on a monorail. The idea behind Shweeb is human-powered monorail pods would offer an environmentally friendly alternative to getting across town at the same time giving you an aerobic workout. It's unclear what became of the project, but if you're ever in Ngongotaha Rotorua, New Zealand Agroventures Adventure Park will let you take a ride in one.
Google Lunar X Prize
(Image Credit: Google Lunar X Prize )