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Google earnings: Investors hunt for 'moonshot' clues

Google parent company Alphabet reports earnings after the bell Thursday, but investors may be paying more attention to what's ahead for the company's various "moonshots."

"What's going on inside the X labs … is the stuff of science fiction, but increasingly the stuff of next quarter, next year's revenue," said Max Wolff, chief economist at Manhattan Venture Partners in an interview with CNBC on Thursday.

Wolff said he hopes to hear an update on Alphabet's self-driving car development and virtual reality technology during the earnings call Thursday.

Developments in VR, along with artificial intelligence, should be a major focus for Google as well as other major tech companies, Wolff said.

"I think the era of the smartphone is mostly behind us," Wolff said. "And the era of the messaging system, the chatbot and virtual reality is here. They need to be front and center. ... If that is in any way not the case, that would be a big worry."