Google’s secret lab, Google X, functions with the objective to invent the future today. Google X is what brought us Google Glass and self-driving cars. But not all their projects are booming success stories, like the failed design for a space elevator and one of the most recent is the attempt to make a jetpack.
Google X’s “Head of Moonshots”, Astro Teller, said they did some research on jetpacks and that “it turns out you can make a jetpack that’s not a death trap”, in a recent TechCrunch Disrupt. But the issue wasn’t safety, “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.”
Another problem is that jetpacks would be as loud as motorcycles and according to Teller, “I didn’t think other people were going to be okay with that.” “I’m not sure society is going to be cool when you zoom over people’s houses.” So, for the time being, the jetpack idea is going in Google X’s impractical pile, along with levitation and teleportation.
The rejection of this idea may seem like a big loss, but in order to focus on stuff that works and is actually practical, Google X “turns off 100 things a year.” Many ideas are rejected in the early phases of the research and development cycle to prevent the creation of second rate inventions. These “moonshots” are rejected and Google X goes on to more practical projects that have the potential to become consumer products. So maybe, when science has developed far enough Google X can revisit the jetpack idea so we can all live out our geeky fantasies.