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Google’s experimental division – appropriately named “Google X” – is responsible for some of the most innovative and interesting projects to come from the company. Google Glass? Smart Contact Lenses? The Self-Driving Car? All of these are coming from Google X, and slowly making our world different, and hopefully better. A new report in the Wall Street Journal today reveals another initiative from Google X, in which the company hopes to get the best and most accurate image yet of the human body. In short, it sounds like taking the ideas behind Google Maps and Google Earth and creating, well, Google Human.

The report tells us that the project is called Baseline Study, and will “collect anonymous genetic and molecular information from 175 people – and later thousands more – to create what the company hopes will be the fullest picture of what a healthy human being should be.”

Fortunately, the project lead is Andrew Conrad, a molecular biologist, and he’s gathered a team of roughly 100 medical science experts “from fields including physiology, biochemistry, optics, imaging and molecular biology.” The upshot here is that Baseline Study will mix the combined experience of the aforementioned experts with the data-driven power of Google. As you are probably aware, Google is pretty good at collecting and indexing data. If biomedical experts can direct Google’s data efforts, the results might be revolutionary.

The goal, it seems, is to have such a detailed model of the human body that doctors and scientists will be better equipped to find health problems before they pop up, “pushing medicine more toward prevention rather than the treatment of illness,” says the report. In fact, while there’s no indication that this is the case, it’s possible that the initiative may have been motivated from the very specific health concerns of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who has said that he has fears about his own genetic predisposition to Parkinson’s disease.

It isn’t entirely clear how – or if – Google will seek to monetize Baseline Study. The fact that the company’s putting out wearable tech devices that can monitor a person’s vital and biometric data could certainly play a hand in how the project might find its way into consumer products. However, it’s also possible that Google may simply be looking to expand the resources and knowledge of humanity, with the hope that benefits and usefulness will follow later. Considering how well Google’s done at that kind of thing, I certainly wouldn’t bet against them.

[Source: WSJ]


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