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moonshot

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

A moonshot, in a technology context, is an ambitious, exploratory and ground-breaking project undertaken without any expectation of near-term profitability or benefit and also, perhaps, without a full investigation of potential risks and benefits. 

Google has adopted the term moonshot for its most innovative projects, many of which come out of the Google X, the company's semi-secret lab. Google moonshots include Google Glass, Project Loon (a balloon-based Internet service project), the driverless car, augmented reality glasses, a neural network, robots for the manufacturing industry and Project Calico, a life extension project. 

Here's Google's definition of a moonshot:

A project or proposal that:

  1. Addresses a huge problem
  2. Proposes a radical solution
  3. Uses breakthrough technology

The term "moonshot" derives from the Apollo 11 spaceflight project, which landed the first human on the moon in 1969. "Moonshot" may also reference the earlier phrase "shoot for the moon" meaning aim for a lofty target.

See a Google video about "moonshot thinking":

See also: disruptive innovation, skunkworks

This was last updated in April 2014

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