Technology

Google’s secret Wolverine project


This is an AR integration project that is being researched and developed at Alphabet’s secret lab.

Follow InsiderAlphabet’s secret research and development division, X (or X Lab), is working on AR (augmented reality) devices that aid in human hearing.

According to one research member (who requested anonymity because he was not allowed to share publicly with the press), the project, called “Wolverine”, was inspired by the mutant Werewolf in the Marvel comics, who possesses super-hearing.

“Someday Wolverine will become Alphabet’s golden egg.”

Founded in 2018 with the support of the Google board, Wolverine has undergone many different prototypes during the 2 years of research. Although not going into the details of the project, a spokesperson for X Lab announced it will “explore the future of hearing aids”.

According to internal sources, Wolverine has been developed as a hearing device with many sensors that can be placed in the dome of the human ear. Like all hearing aids, the biggest challenge facing the team is the ability to separate, selectively sound in overlapping sound environments. And to do this, the team has arranged quite a few microphones on the device.

How to use your Google AR device 1

Wolverine is an ambitious project that will generate huge profits for Alphabet. Photo: Bounding Into Comics.

The team emphasizes Wolverine’s goal is to become a successful, highly profitable business. During project meetings, it is always emphasized that apart from the ability to segregate and select sounds, they have to do more.

Size is a pretty big hurdle for Wolverine. To integrate multiple microphones for separation capabilities, the first builds were quite large (covering one ear like a common ear-cup design). But the recent designs have been more compact.

Wolverine is led by Jason Rugolo, former director of ARPA – E (the agency that manages advanced research projects), joining the X Lab since 2017. In addition, the team is supported by industry experts.

These include Raphael Michel, founder of hearing aids company Eargo, who joined as a business strategy consultant; Simon Carlie, former vice president of hearing devices company Starkey Hearing Technologies, is in charge of the technology of the project.

Use your Google AR device 2

Whisper equipment, including a sound separator, a headset, and a control app. Screenshots.

Not only Google, but also technology companies like Bragi and Doppler also look to Wolverine with their smart headset products. Among the research competitors, the Whisper startup’s AI hearing aid project has come close to Wolverine’s goal.

Emerging from October 2020, Whisper also uses the technique of “sound separation” to optimize hearing in noisy environments. The product includes a separator using an AI algorithm to optimize the sound, then transmitted through the wearable to the user’s ear and a control application.

X Lab is Alphabet’s secret laboratory, headed by Astro Teller. The department responsible for researching advanced projects such as robots, smart glasses or salt energy storage, some of which have grown into independent companies.

Including the hot air balloon project Loon Internet with the mission to cover the Internet to 2/3 of the world’s population by hot air balloon; Waymo, self-driving car project studied for more than a decade, has now become a private company, providing self-driving car services in Phoenix, Arizona (USA).

For now, Wolverine is still in development, which can be canceled at any time. Under Rugolo’s leadership, Alphabet’s leadership is still seeing potential in this project. In 2019, a demo of Wolverine was presented to Astro Teller, head of laboratory X.

The obsession called “Google Glass”

Google Glass is an ambitious smart glass project developed by X Lab (at a time when X Lab was under Google’s management before moving to Alphabet).

Flaunted by its introduction in 2013, but after a wave of harsh criticism, concerns about privacy and poor applicability, Google Glass retreated to the lab and was phased out shortly thereafter.

Using Google AR device 3

Failure of Google Glass always causes “haunt” for the next projects of X Lab, especially projects related to AR. Photo: New York Magazine.

However, according to Insider, Alphabet is quite confident with Wolverine, in the interview with PioneerX spokesperson Courtley Hohne hinted at the project “concerning the future of hearing aids”.

Multiple internal sources have confirmed the alluded project is Wolverine. In addition, it is reported that another group of X Lab is working on the wearable project “Heimdallr”, named after a Norse god, who has a keen sight and hearing.

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