Photo by Bloomberg. Art by Mike Sullivan
Aug. 11, 2021 6:01 AM PDT

For several years, a team inside X—the secretive research lab within Alphabet, Google’s parent company—has been working on a gadget to give people augmented-hearing abilities that would let them listen to select voices in a crowd. Recently, though, X told the team that they would no longer be pursuing the project, known as Wolverine, inside the company and that it would have to fend for itself as an independent business, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. Jason Rugolo, an executive leading the effort, left Alphabet this month.

Alphabet’s plan to spin out Wolverine, which hasn't been reported before, is another sign of the tougher stance Alphabet has taken in recent years toward spending under Ruth Porat, chief financial officer. In her six years at the company, Porat has created a more rigorous process for deciding how quickly to make big investments in new hardware for cloud computing, search and other needs. And under her watch, Alphabet has sought to rein in the excesses of free-spending engineers, including by killing projects that don’t look like they’re going anywhere.

Access on the go
View stories on our mobile app and tune into our weekly podcast.
Join live video Q&A’s
Deep-dive into topics like startups and autonomous vehicles with our top reporters and other executives.
Enjoy a clutter-free experience
Read without any banner ads.
Art by Clark Miller.
Exclusive startups crypto
MoonPay CEO, Other Executives Cashed Out Before Crypto Business Dropped
In November 2021, just as crypto prices were hitting all-time highs, MoonPay—a crypto payments startup that celebrities including Jimmy Fallon and Paris Hilton had praised for its non-fungible token “concierge” service— announced it had completed its first ever outside fundraising: an eye-popping $555 million round at a $3.4 billion valuation from investors including Tiger Global Management and Coatue Management.
Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang. Photo by Bloomberg
semiconductors ai
Why Nvidia Aids Cloud Rivals of AWS, Google and Microsoft
Nvidia’s business of selling chips for artificial intelligence is going gangbusters, but the company faces a looming problem.
Instacart CEO Fidji Simo. Photo by Getty.
Exclusive startups Finance
Growth Wanes at Instacart, Gopuff
Grocery upstarts Instacart and Gopuff haven’t been able to deliver two things at once this year: growth and profits.
Tim Cook. Photo by Bloomberg
Exclusive apple ar/vr
Apple’s Learning Curve: How Headset’s Design Caused Production Challenges
If Apple unveils its long-awaited mixed-reality headset next week as expected, it will represent the company’s riskiest gamble on a new product since the iPhone.
Art by Clark Miller, Shutterstock (4)
Opinion ar/vr
Don’t Count the Metaverse Out
The technology hype cycle would have us believe that the metaverse—so recently the darling of digital trendsetters—is on the decline, its place usurped by generative artificial intelligence.
Adam D'Angelo photograph by Ko Sasaki. Art by Clark Miller
The 1:1 ai
Adam D’Angelo’s Endless Quest to Answer Everything
Adam D’Angelo is basking in an “ endless summer ” of artificial intelligence. A few weeks before he and 350 industry peers released a bizarre, one-line statement warning that AI could herald a nuclear-level extinction event, the 38-year-old co-founder of Quora told me he actually sees more upside in AI than downside.