The mystery of the Google barge
moored off San Francisco's Treasure Island and its sister barge recently towed from Long Island, N.Y. to Portland, Maine, has apparently been solved.
First thought to be floating data centers, the barges are now believed to house mobile modular containers, four stories high, welded together and designed to showcase the latest Google gadgets – the company's floating answer to Apple's alluring stores around the country, KPIX 5 in San Francisco reported.
The barge complexes are said to feature posh showrooms and a party deck complete with bar and special floor lighting.
Some reports say the facilities are constructed using interchangeable 40-foot shipping containers that can be disassembled and transported anywhere. This would permit the containers to be re-assembled on barges or even moved by surface to locations around the country.
Two additional barges in the Google "fleet" are in the early stages of construction.
The mobile store idea is apparently the brainchild of Google X, the company's secret facility whose engineers came up with futuristic gems such as Google Glass, the company's wearable computer with optical head-mounted display, and the Google driverless car.
The Coast Guard has refused to answer questions about the barges but the project is apparently on hold because the guard has designated the complexes as "floating vessels" requiring federally approved safety features.
"Coast Guard personnel have been onboard to conduct routine inspections and ensure compliance with … regulations," Coast Guard Lt. Anna Dixon said in a terse statement released Thursday, according to CBS News.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said he has no idea what is on the barge. "They've kept a secret from me as well," he told KPIX 5.
A spokesperson for San Francisco supervisor Jane Kim, who represents Treasure Island, said she too would have "no comment." Google also has refused comment.
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