Google says mystery barge may become interactive learning space

A statement from Google may help end weeks of speculation about the purpose of structures on two barges, one being built in the San Francisco Bay, another off Portland, Maine.

A 4-storey structure has been under construction on barge in San Francisco Bay for weeks

In this Oct. 29 photo, a barge is seen on Treasure Island in San Francisco. Google is erecting a four-storey structure in the heart of the San Francisco Bay but had managed to conceal its purpose by constructing it on docked barges instead of on land, where city building permits and public plans are mandatory. (Jeff Chiu/Associated Press)

Internet giant Google says it is exploring using a large barge as an interactive learning centre.

A statement released Wednesday from Google's press centre may help end weeks of speculation about the purpose of structures on two barges, one being built in the San Francisco Bay, another off Portland, Maine.

"Google Barge ... A floating data centre? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above," says the statement. "Although it's still early days and things may change, we're exploring using the barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology."

Google did not specify in the statement if it was referring to both barges or, if just one, which one, and the firm did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Google has been building a four-storey structure in the heart of the San Francisco Bay for several weeks, but managed to conceal its purpose by constructing it on docked barges instead of on land, where city building permits and public plans are mandatory.

Until now, city officials responsible for land use and state officials responsible for the bay have said they didn't know what was being built there. Coast Guard inspectors who visited the construction sites could not discuss what they saw. Lt. Anna Dixon said non-disclosure agreements were signed, but that those were not necessary, and that the Coast Guard, as a practice, doesn't share proprietary information it sees during inspections.

If Google wants to operate an on-barge interactive learning centre in the San Francisco Bay, the firm will eventually need to get permission from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

The East Coast barge, built in New London, Conn., harbour in July was recently towed to Maine.

Last year Google proposed building a land-based "Google Experience Center" which would operate as a private museum and demo space as part of the new Googleplex headquarters it is building in Mountain View, Calif., where it is headquartered.

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