TechCrunch has learned, and Google has confirmed, that the company is cutting projects in its own research and development unit known as Area 120. From the report: The company on Tuesday informed employees of a “reduction in force” that will see the incubator halved in size as half of its product innovation teams heard their projects were being cancelled. There used to be 14 projects located in Zone 120 and this has been reduced to just seven. Employees whose projects would not continue were told they would have until the end of January 2023 to find new jobs at Google or face being fired. It is not clear that everyone will be able to do this. According to Area 120 head Elias Roman, the unit aims to focus its attention only on projects focused on artificial intelligence, in contrast to the previous mandate to encourage product incubation throughout Google.
Over the years, the division has produced a number of successful products, including the HTML5 gaming platform GameSnacks, now integrated with Google Chrome; an AirTable competitor called Tables that moved to Google Cloud; AI-powered conversational advertising platform AdLingo, which has also moved to the cloud; video platforms Tangi and Shoploop, which launched in Google Search and Shopping, respectively; web travel app Touring Bird, which moved to Commerce; and technical interview platform Byteboard, a rare external piece. One project that is now shrinking with the changes is Qaya, a service that offers web-based showcases for digital creators that launched late last year.
The remaining six projects that were canceled had not yet launched, but included a financial accounting project for Google Sheets, another shopping-related product, analytics for AR/VR, and, unfortunately, three climate-related projects. These latest projects have focused on routed electric vehicle charging maps, carbon accounting for IT, and forest carbon measurement. Google confirmed the changes in a statement to TechCrunch: “Area 120 is its own incubator for experimental new products. The group regularly launches and terminates projects with an eye toward finding the most promising opportunities. We recently reported that Area 120 will be shifting its focus to projects that rely on Google’s deep investments in artificial intelligence and have the potential to solve important user problems. As a result, Area 120 is winding down several projects to make room for new work. Affected team members will receive special support as they explore new projects and opportunities at Google.”