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Google has shut down half of the projects in its Area 120 lab

Google has decided to halve the number of projects in its Area 120 research unit. It used to develop fourteen projects, but now there are only seven. Employees whose teams have been downsized have been offered new jobs at Google until the end of January 2023. Otherwise, they will all be made redundant.

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Among the projects that Google is abandoning: the Qaya service, launched last year, which helps create a "showcase" for product manufacturers linked to the YouTube product shelf, Google Search and Google Shopping; a financial accounting project for Google Sheets, an analytics product for AR/VR and three projects related to climate. The latter were developing a mapping service for electric car owners with addresses of charging stations and carbon accounting.

As Elias Roman, head of Area 120, commented for TechCrunch, his division must now focus on AI-oriented projects.

Area 120 operates as an internal incubator for new products and, according to a Google spokesperson, the division has periodically abandoned some projects in order to launch other, more promising ones.

Over the years, Area 120 has launched a gaming platform called GameSnacks, now integrated into Google Chrome; an AirTable competitor called Tables, hosted on Google Cloud; an AI-powered conversational advertising platform called AdLingo, also available in the cloud; video platforms Tangi and Shoploop, released in Google Search and Shopping respectively; travel app Touring Bird, released in Commerce; and tech interview platform Byteboard.

Area 120 had already gone through a reorganisation last year, with the incubator being moved to a new division of Google Labs, which is also working on promising Google projects such as developments in virtual and augmented reality or the holographic video conferencing project known as Project Starline. But so far the cuts have not affected Starline or Google Labs as a whole.

Recent speeches from Google CEO Sundar Pichai have set the stage for cuts in the team: in July, he said Google would slow down hiring and may need to restructure teams, cut jobs and divest products. And last week, speaking at the Code Conference, Pichai said the corporation needed to become 20% more efficient. Many in the industry at the time took his statement as a signal to cut staff.

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Employees who have worked at closed start-ups should receive special support from Google's HR people to explore their options for continued employment with the company.

Google currently has around 174,000 employees. Supposedly more than 170 of them were working in Area 120 at the start of the year, there are now fewer than 100 left.

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