Deep inside Amazon, a secretive group called Grand Challenge, led by the creator of Google Glass, is working on a series of bold projects involving cancer research, medical records and last-mile delivery, according to people familiar with the matter.
Similar to Alphabet's experimental research lab, X (formerly Google X), Grand Challenge is a research team set up to explore ambitious new ventures that can eventually expand Amazon's already wide footprint, said the people, who asked not to be named because the work is confidential.
The group, which also operates under the monikers 1492 and Amazon X, has added over 50 people since 2014, when Babak Parviz left Google X to head up the effort. The makeup of Parviz's team illustrates how far out Amazon is going to pursue innovative projects, beyond its primary businesses of e-commerce, consumer devices and Amazon Web Services, while still using resources from those divisions for some of its initiatives.
Organizationally, Grand Challenge is part of AWS and Parviz reports directly to AWS CEO Andy Jassy, according to an internal chart.
(After the publication of this story, an Amazon spokesperson said that Parviz's team is "not part of AWS and is a totally separate group." The chart identifies Parviz as "vice president, Grand Challenge," and says that he reports to Jassy.)
One person with knowledge of Grand Challenge said the group gets to take a longer time horizon than teams that focus on commercial products. An internal job listing for Grand Challenge quotes astronomer Carl Sagan in the post: "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."