Astro Teller, the head of Alphabet’s X unit, is today holding a press conference to discuss the ongoing progress of the Mountain View company’s Project Loon initiative. Among other things, Teller said that Loon is ditching the idea of having a “constant stream” of balloons floating around the globe…
But that doesn’t mean that Project Loon is dead. Rather, the Loon team suggests that this plan is rather being replaced with newly-improved navigation that allows balloons to hover over specific areas that are in most need of internet connections.
“But what if, instead of rings around the world, we could get our balloons to cluster in groups over the areas where connectivity is needed?,” Google wrote in a new video. “With our latest navigational update, we can now send small teams of balloons to specific areas, allowing us to bring useful connectivity to those areas without the need for a constant stream of balloons.
Astro Teller elaborated on this news in a blog post, saying that this is a shift from the original model in which the group planned to “create rings of balloons sailing around the globe.”
Project Loon’s algorithms can now send small teams of balloons to form a cluster over a specific region where people need internet access. This is a shift from our original model for Loon in which we planned to create rings of balloons sailing around the globe, and balloons would take turns moving through a region to provide service.
According to Bloomberg’s Mark Bergen, who attended the event, Teller said that this new strategy will mean that Project Loon will have a “much better chance of ultimately being profitable.”
Teller touched on this in his blog post as well, saying that this change will be a “positive sign” for “Loon’s economic and operational viability.” Lately, that’s basically Alphabet speak for “not being killed off.”
Although our navigation algorithms can get even better, and we need to test them in many other parts of the world, this is a positive sign for Loon’s economic and operational viability. We’ll be able to put together a Loon network over a particular region in weeks not months, and it would be a lot less work to launch and manage. We’ll reduce the number of balloons we need and get greater value out of each one.
Check out the video below:
(Image via Richard Nieva on Twitter)