November 8, 2013
Google Describes Mystery Barge As An Interactive Learning Space
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Last month a four-story barge was seen floating in San Francisco Bay near Treasure Island, a former US naval base. It had the appearance of a James Bond super villain’s lair – although not one that was too secret – but exactly what it was for was unknown. Reports quickly suggested that it was apparently part of a super-secret Google facility, and while able to be seen at a distance everything else about it truly remained a secret.
Reports also suggested that it was a floating data center, but this turned out not to be true. With much secrecy and mystery surrounding it, Google finally broke its silence this week.
“Google Barge ... A floating data center? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above,” the company said in a statement e-mailed Wednesday to CNN and other news outlets. “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.”
This statement is consistent with a report by KPIX-TV that suggested the barge was actually a floating showroom devoted to Google Glass and other products. This barge in San Francisco Bay is just one of four similar crafts that have been built across the country, and these are apparently part of a small fleet of luxury event spaces.
This barge certainly has the space. Constructed outside of Hanger 3 on Treasure Island, it measures some 250 feet long, 72 feet wide and is at least 16 feet deep, which is notable in that it is significantly deeper than the average for typical freight barges, and is far longer. Its gross tonnage weighs in at 2,164, which is 183 percent larger than the average for all freight barges; yet its net tonnage is 649, which is actually 15 percent smaller than the average for freight barges.
Instead of being a data center it is seems these are part of a larger marketing effort – a sort of one-upmanship with rival Apple. The four barges were reportedly designed with portability in mind, and while these can certainly float each barge could be disassembled and transported on land or sea.
According to TechCrunch the project is supposedly a product of the experimental GoogleX labs.
Apparently the data center suggestion came about because of some sloppy reporting. While reports noted that Google did have permits for such a facility that would use seawater as part of the cooling system, it appears that many online sleuths were looking at the wrong permits.
Google’s lease for such a permit was signed on August 1, The Los Angeles Times reported, but the construction on the mystery barge began late last year.
The paper noted that the lease for Hanger 3 and the surrounding area was issued to G and K Media, a Seattle-based firm that produces special events for large corporations. According to that lease, the purpose was for “fabrication of a special event structure and art exhibit only and for no other purpose.”
There is still the possibility that Google could build a floating data center. Google was granted a patent for such a project in 2009, but this four story structure, made from shipping containers, clearly isn’t it.