Google brings brainstorming project to Chautauqua


Brian Smith | Staff Photographer
Allie Loftin, 23, of Sacramento, and Augusta Mead, 18 of Columbia, Md., listen to Eden Full, inventor of the SunSalutor, at the Solve for X forum for young Chautauquans July 2 in the Pier Club.

Last Tuesday night, approximately 40 young minds gathered in the Pier Building to “Solve For X.” A brainstorming project run by Google[x] — the arm of the technology giant responsible for the self-driving car and Google Glass — Solve For X brought 17- to 24-year-olds together for an hour of presentations by three innovators, followed by a half-hour of brainstorming about each innovator’s idea. Google describes the process as the meeting point of a huge problem, a radical solution to the problem and the use of breakthrough technology.

“I think the founders of Chautauqua were moonshot thinkers,” said Megan Smith, vice president of Google[x], the Week Two Monday morning lecturer. “I think they were ideas people.”

Smith described the rules of the program: After each innovator presented, the audience members would break into brainstorming groups. For each idea presented, there were two tables of six to eight participants brainstorming enhancements to the original pitch. Like critiques in writing classes, after presenting, the creator steps back and lets his or her peers talk.

Two-thirds of the time had to be spent on ways to take the original idea one step further, while the rest of the time could include a critique of the idea, presenting ways in which it might not work.

Smith said not to be afraid to throw crazy ideas at the wall. Within a few hours of brainstorming Google Glass, for example, the engineers already had a rough prototype thrown together. They didn’t know if their crazy idea would work, but they were excited to test it out.

A representative from each group presented the group’s ideas to the entire room. Karishma Shah, a rapid evaluator program manager at Google[x], recorded the reports for further research. At the end of the program, Smith invited the brainstorming groups to try out Google Glass.

Wearing Google Glass, glasses-like eyewear that connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth, feels like wearing a phone as an eye patch. A menu screen projects through a lens, providing many of the same options available on a smartphone: taking a picture, recording a video or using a search engine. Google developed the technology  as a radical solution to the problem of smartphone users having to look down at their phones while walking around.