Is Google Building a Robot Army?
With the purchase of a Waltham-based robotics company that spun out of MIT, Google may have just grounded Amazon’s vision of using autonomous machines to do everyday work.
Boston Dynamics, the company behind some of the most revolutionary concepts in robot design and manufacturing, has been acquired by Google as part of the Internet giant’s continued round-up of resources for its growing robotics division.
Boston Dynamics is responsible for creating machines like the WildCat, which can run up to 16 mph. on various terrain, and PETMAN, the Terminator-like robot that walks on two legs.
Its latest creation, ATLAS, “one of the most advanced humanoid robots ever built,” is capable of maneuvering through tough landscapes, and completing jobs usually reserved for first responders in emergency situations.
“It has been a great time at Boston Dynamics getting the robots we build this far along. Now we are excited to see how far ahead we can take things as part of Google,” said Marc Raibert, founder of Boston Dynamics, in an email to Boston.
The acquisition was announced over the weekend, and although few details as to why Google wanted to reel in the Massachusetts company were revealed, Boston Dynamics said it was staying put and wouldn’t be moving its offices to California, where the search giant has headquarters.
According to the New York Times, Google’s new robotics division has acquired more than eight similar companies that are revolutionizing these types of technologies. The division is under the leadership of Google’s Andy Rubin, who formerly ran the company’s popular Android operating system, which is used worldwide.
While Google’s intent remains unclear—they have been tight-lipped about their robot infantry—this particular deal is “… the clearest indication yet that Google is intent on building a new class of autonomous systems that might do anything from warehouse work to package delivery and even elder care,” according to the Times.
Boston Dynamics has become synonymous with ground-breaking robotics technologies over the last few years, rolling out similar prototypes that resemble animals, such as the Cheetah robot, and the BigDog. The videos of these inventions have been viewed millions of times, and have sparked conversations online about the future of technology, and how it will shape everyday tasks.
The company does not sell their machines commercially, however, they do have contracts with the government, and have developed machines specifically for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. According to the Times report, Boston Dynamics will honor existing military contracts under Google’s ownership.