“Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of connections is the key to quality per se.”- Charles Eames

Last week, Google X Labs announced their latest moonshot project: Project Loon. Two-thirds of the world does not have access to the internet and Project Loon hopes to change this. Their goals are simple: connect people in rural and remote areas, fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters. In the Earth’s stratosphere, the balloons float 20 km above designated regions and spans its wireless 40 km in diameter with speeds comparable to 3G.

Made up of polyethylene plastic, the inflated balloon will be able to withstand the higher pressure. When finished with its service, there is a parachute attached to the top of the balloon for a controlled descent. The balloon will move with the winds’ specific direction, switching back and forth between layers of the stratosphere. People with special antennas will be able to connect to the floating wireless service.

You can learn more about the technology with the informative video provided by Google.

The idea is radical, ambitious, and innovative and the world seems to have a 50/50 split on it. Some think that Project Loon is too ideal, too political, and too costly. Others are optimistic and believe that this will push our world forward, inform the third world on health updates, and actually decrease the cost of internet services. Google did launch their first round of pilot testing in rural Christchurch, New Zealand and Australia is next in line for the next round of trial runs.

If successful and approved, it is unimaginable to think of how much more connected our world will become and the amount of information that will be available for regions that did not have access before. A commenter on Quora said, “Imagine how amazing wikipedia would look with contributors from the remaining two-thirds of the Earth’s minds.” This brought up a good point though: this would be amazing… assuming the remaining two-thirds had access to a working computer. In addition to the special antenna that would catch Project Loon’s wi-fi connection, will Google be supporting these areas with computers as well? When logistics come into the picture, Project Loon seems to float further away from an idea of a realistic “balloon internet” world.

Are you on board for Project Loon?

To infinity and beyond!

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