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 Google's mysterious barges docked in San Francisco and Portland, Maine, the company Wednesday shined a bit of light on them.

Until today, Google had failed to respond at all to requests for information about the barges, which only increased interest in its plan for the structures.

"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 welded together shipping crates, first created curiosity in the San Francisco and Portland areas, buc once people learned that the two were related, and connected to Google, speculation snowballed.

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

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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