Mystery barges reportedly tied to Google X

Another day, another theory as curiosity mounts over barges in Maine and California

Another day and another reported reason that Google is building structures on two barges docked on either side of the U.S.

For days, there has been speculation about two barges - one docked in San Francisco Bay and the other in Portland, Maine.

Much of the speculation has focused on the barges carrying floating data centers, while others say they will be used to sell Google Glass when it's officially released next year.

A report today, however, from TV station KPIX 5 says the barge docked in San Francisco will hold luxury showrooms for displaying Google X products, such as its digital eyewear called Glass, along with a party deck. The report, which cites unnamed sources, also said the showcase would be for Google's top customers and invitation only.

The barge project, the report said, came out of Google X, the Internet company's secretive research arm, which has developed the self-driving car that Google has been testing, Glass, and balloon-powered Internet access.

The first three floors of the barge would house what the report called "dazzling showrooms" and the upper party deck would have bars and a lanais, where Google could wine and dine its customers.

The structures on both barges appear to be constructed out of shipping containers welded together and four stories tall. Most of the modules have thin slits instead of windows and each has an enclosed second-floor section that goes down to the ground level at one end.

The structure in Maine also has four modules on the end that are covered by wooden sheets.

A Coast Guard spokesman in San Francisco said earlier this week said that Google is involved in the project but would not comment further because the service is working under a nondisclosure agreement with the company. The next day, the spokesman retracted his statement and said he could not confirm or deny that Google was involved.

A Coast Guard spokesman stationed in Portland said only the station captain and a few others know what is on the barge, and they are not commenting out of "courtesy" to the company that owns them.

Both barges are owned by By and Large LLC, a company formed in 2012 in Delaware but with no known address or phone number.

Officials including harbormasters, the Maine Port Authority and the mayor of Portland have either said they were not told about the barges or whether Google is involved, or they simply won't say.

This article, Mystery barges reportedly tied to Google X, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

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

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

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