\u201cEpic\u201d was the word Regina Dugan used to describe her team\u2019s research and development projects that included enlisting \u201cFast and Furious\u201d movie franchise director Justin Lin to help create the next-generation movie experience. Dugan, vice president of Google\u2019s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group, delighted thousands of developers in May at Google\u2019s annual I\/O conference as she orchestrated demonstrations of applied technologies that seemed to originate from just over the horizon of most humans\u2019 imaginations.\nThe 36 pages of results when you Google her name confirms Dugan\u2019s fame, making kudos redundant, but reporting where she came from is important because it explains ATAP\u2019s role within Google.\nDugan\u2019s last job was head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a 50-year-old Department of Defense research agency with a budget of about $3 billion that\u2019s charged with preventing strategic surprises from \u2013 and creating strategic surprises for \u2013 America\u2019s adversaries. DARPA earned a reputation for producing high impact results quickly. A few of DARPA\u2019s innovations include the internet, global positioning satellites (GPS), drones and micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS). \u00a0\nDARPA isn\u2019t a monolithic government agency. It doesn\u2019t have its own labs or a large R&D staff. Instead, the Agency recruits teams of highly accomplished technical leaders, usually PhDs and experts in their fields to work on short three-to-five year projects with university and industry partners. The goals are ambitious \u2026 such as building a hypersonic test vehicle to fly at mach 20 (15,200 mph). \u00a0DARPA doesn\u2019t build products \u2013 it proves or disproves the feasibility of building a solution that could be developed into a product. This is an important distinction that explains DARPA\u2019s role: Success in building a prototype gives tangible evidence that a strategic end-product could be built.\nDugan joined Google to create the ATAP group, where she could apply the DARPA model to speed Google\u2019s strategic research projects. She traded the Department of Defense\u2019s deep pockets for Google\u2019s, and exchanged fighting America\u2019s adversaries for fighting perplexing product development challenges.\n[Related:\u00a09 most important announcements at Google I\/O 2015]\nDugan\u2019s first demonstrations addressed the unique user interface (UI) problems posed by smartwatches due to the small size of wearables. The tiny or in some cases non-existent wearable screens essentially call for new UIs.\nATAP applied trusted radar radio technologies to controlling another device with a touchless UI that interprets fine finger movements and hand gestures made in the air. The prototype device shown at I\/O 15 captured the radar reflection of a movement and applied machine learning for accurate recognition. Any movement interpreted by the radar UI can be a metaphor for any input such as up, down, make a call or take a photo. An example one such metaphor was demonstrated with a thumb and forefinger twirling motion in the air that reset the time on a digital clock display. The concept is explained in a few words and a roughly minute-and-a-half video:\n\n\n \n\u00a0\n\n\nCut from whole cloth\nA second demonstration of a wearable product \u2013 code-named Project Jacquard \u2013 how to weave a multi-touch input panel like a mouse pad into regular cloth using existing textile industry\u2019s processes. \u00a0Now, multi-touch has been around since IBM first experimented with it in the 1960s, and it\u2019s now used in every touchpad and touch screen. No need for ATAP\u2019s high-powered R&D for that. Redesigning multi-touch so that it could be produced by the textile industry at scale, however, is right in ATAP\u2019s wheelhouse.\nATAP\u2019s Ivan Poupyrev described the route that began with hand weaving conductive yarns into cloth to make a prototype multi-touch panel. He stepped through the collaboration with textile industry partners to redesign the hand-made prototype so that it could be made in textile production plants using unmodified (legacy) spinning and weaving equipment.\nThe path to prove feasibility of Project Jacquard reached its destination when a multi-touch panel was woven into cloth in a textile factory that was then shipped to a London Saville Row tailor and sewn into a jacket. As conclusive proof, a telephone call on a smartphone was made with a swipe of the jacket sleeve.\nPoupyrev made an important distinction that Project Jacquard demonstrated feasibility and not specific applications. Those he hoped would be engineered by software developers and tailored into fashion by designers creating new applications for soft e-textile computing. Poupyrev proved that if Google wanted to, it could turn over ATAP\u2019s design and manufacture at scale, like the U.S. Department of Defense could take a DARPA design into production.\nHow a woven multi-touch panel works is explained in this 94-second video:\n\n\n \n\n\n\n\t\n\nPasse passwords\nDugan\u2019s notorious ire over password authentication also has become the object of ATAP\u2019s attention in a project called Abacus. ATAP recruited 25 experts from 16 institutions in 10 countries to collaborate on signing-in or authenticating without passwords at Google\u2019s Mountain View facility during a 90-day design session. \u00a0Applying machine learning, the collaborators built an app that vouches for the identity of the user based on a multimodal assessment of his or her behavior.\nBy enlisting such smartphone sensors as the camera and accelerometer, ATAP replaces passwords by collecting data about the users\u2019 unique patterns of behavior while typing, talking, changing facial expressions and walking. The combination of this data can uniquely identify the user carrying and interacting with a smartphone almost like a baby identifies its mother by the way she carries and interacts with her infant.\n \nClick to enlarge.\n\nIndividually these patterns may be a weaker security defense than a simple four-digit pin code, but combined they\u2019re stronger than the best fingerprint reader. Dugan declared success in her war against the password, saying \u201cthe result, proof of the hypothesis \u2013 a new method of authentication that may prove to be 10-fold more secure than the best fingerprint sensors. The hope is that with only a software update we can provide this level of security to millions of Android devices.\u201d\nFast and furious technology breakthroughs\nGoogle also delivered its fourth Spotlight Story filmed as a 360-degree immersive movie. The movie can be watched from a spectator\u2019s multi-angle vantage point in the middle of the movie set using a smartphone and earbuds. Google partnered with Justin Lin, director of the \u201cFast and Furious\u201d movie franchise and the upcoming \u201cStar Trek III\u201d to film a 360-degree action movie. Titled \u201cHelp,\u201d the film\u2019s about an extraterrestrial reptile that lands on earth and grows in size from baby to velociraptor to a Godzilla-sized monster terrorizing a Gotham-like city amidst special effects.\nThe movie-goer watches the movie from any of 360 degrees \u2013 up, down, right, left, front and back \u2013 seeing the movie through the window of his or her smartphone as if he or she were in the middle of the scene. Instead of trying to explain the 360-degree movie experience with mere words, downloading the Spotlight player and movies from Google Play or iTunes will result in a richer experience and first-hand understanding of ATAP and Lee\u2019s movie.\nThe creation of a 360-degree action movie demanded a partnership between a creative movie director, who could express the camera equipment he needed, and ATAP, who could swiftly build this equipment. ATAP technical project lead Rachid El Guerrab\u2019s account of director Lee\u2019s needs and the solution that he designed gives insight into just one dimension of creating a 360-degree movie, the camera. But the solution built for Lee by ATAP is much bigger and more complex, including a directional audio system that follows the observer\u2019s position, management tools to help the director visualize and plan the video shoot, and integration with digital effects authoring tools so the virtual velociraptor can be merged into the scene with the human actors.\u00a0\u00a0\nGuerrab\u2019s describes Lee\u2019s technical requirements in this 81-second video:\n\n\n \n\n\nATAP boldly goes where no man has gone before\nATAP\u2019s developments all address strategic opportunities or risks for Google. Wearable technologies will become a large market that IDC estimates will amount to 126 million units in 2019. Obstacles to how users interact with wearables limit their usefulness. Commercial development of ATAP\u2019s radar motion detector of woven multi-touch interface could give Google a strategic wearable advantage in the same way that Android does, even though Google gives the technology away.\nPasswords are another strategic issue for Google. Android mobile devices need strong authentication. Project Abacus could be a strategic response to Apple\u2019s fingerprint reader. And it\u2019s a key component of all of Google\u2019s apps. With increasing frequency, people use Google, Facebook and Twitter to register and login to websites. If Project Abacus proves Google\u2019s authentication is stronger and safer, consumers will choose it over the alternatives.\nGoogle\u2019s interest in 3D and virtual reality anticipate new ways of interacting with internet content. Google Ventures invested over $500 million in virtual reality startup Magic Leap, a company that aims to merge virtual and real worlds. Virtual reality has reached mainstream attention and appears to be ready to grow and generate serious revenue. 360-degree Spotlight video engineering is a precursor to creating virtual reality content on a massive scale and consumption en masse.\u00a0 It prepares Google with first-hand experience that it can use to lead its strategy and investment in this emerging market.\nAnd it\u2019ll be just one more feasibility-to-reality success for the Dugan\u2019s ATAP wizards.