Daily Authority: 📉 Google’s Area 120 cutbacks

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🌤️ Hey there! We’re getting fleeting glimpses of spring this week, with the temperature reaching 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius) yesterday. I say “fleeting,” because the temperature is set to drop to around 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius) this weekend. 

Google cancels plenty of Area 120 projects

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C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Google’s Area 120 division has been around for years now, dating back to early 2016. The division was created so employees could work on side projects in a full-time capacity, but it seems like even this unit isn’t immune to budget cuts.

More like Area 60

  • TechCrunch reported that Google has drastically cut back the number of projects in the division.
  • More specifically, Area 120 has gone from hosting 14 projects to just seven.
  • Affected employees were apparently told they’d need to find other jobs at Google by the end of January 2023 or face termination.
  • Google confirmed the change to the outlet, adding that Area 120 will now focus on AI-based projects.
  • Canceled projects reportedly include an accounting project for Google Sheets, analytics for AR/VR, and three climate-related projects.

The right move for Google?

  • I can’t help but feel like this is a boring move, for lack of a better term.
  • Sure, AI is a broad field and it impacts plenty of areas, so there are plenty of possibilities here.
  • But Area 120 was founded as a way to focus on so-called 20% projects (“100% of the time”).
  • Google originally allowed employees to spend 20% of their time on side projects, spawning Gmail, Google News, and more.
  • 20% time was reportedly killed off in 2013, so Area 120 seems like the last vestiges of this concept at Google.
  • Area 120 hasn’t seen the same level of hits, but we have seen successful endeavors like Orion Wi-Fi (now a Google Fi feature), Tables (now part of Google Cloud), and Byteboard (now a standalone company).
  • So it’s hard to shake the feeling that Google might be missing out on the next Gmail or AdSense if it’s focused solely on AI.
  • It’s also interesting to see the company cancel these research projects due to budget concerns, as tech firms like to boast about their R&D expenditure.
  • After all, R&D is a foundation for the future of any tech company.
  • Of course, this is just part of a larger swathe of budget cuts at Google and across the tech industry at large. Even the next Pixelbook and Pixelbook team were affected by this — although there are plenty of other quality Chromebooks out there.

Thursday Thing

Fish Vomit Brian Engh historianhimself

We all know that fossils are a thing, but fossilized footprints and fossilized poop (called coprolites) are a thing too. However, researchers have now discovered 150 million-year-old fossilized vomit.

Researchers recently published a study on the vomit in the Palaios journal (h/t: CNET with image via Brian Engh), revealing that it contained frog bones and salamander bits. Scientists did some further investigation and found that it didn’t actually belong to a dinosaur but likely came from an ancient bowfin fish. Still beats dealing with fresh vomit, I guess.

Have a great day!
Hadlee Simons, Editor

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