Google tips hand -- slightly -- about mystery barges

Barges will be used as an 'interactive space' where people can explore new technologies, Google says

Finally!

After weeks of speculation about the mysterious Google barges docked in the waters of San Francisco and Portland, Maine, the company on Wednesday shined a bit of light on what it plans to do with them.

Until today, Google had declined to respond to requests for information about the barges -- and that only increased the public's curiosity about what the company planned to do with the vessels.

"Google Barge... a floating data center? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above," said a Google spokesman Wednesday. "Although it's still early days and things may change, we're exploring using the barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology."

While the Google statement still leaves a lot to the imagination, it goes along with a report last week speculating that the barges will house luxury showrooms for displaying Google X products, such as the Google Glass digital eyewear. That report also said the showcase would be for top Google customers.

The barges, which hold structures seemingly built from shipping crates that were welded together, first sparked mild curiosity in the San Francisco and Portland areas. But speculation snowballed once people learned that the two were related, and that they were connected to Google.

An Irish bookmaker, PaddyPower, even started taking bets on what the barges would be used for. Bettors wagered that the vessels were most likely floating data centers, while other ideas -- like labs for research on self-driving ships or launch pads for space elevators -- were the biggest long shots.

data center on a barge?
Google has provided some information on its plans for its shipping containers piled on top of barges in Portland, Maine, above, and in San Francisco Bay. (Photo: Sharon Gaudin/Computerworld)

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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