Over the past six months, Google has acquired eight robotics companies, with the biggest acquisition occurring this past weekend when they bought Boston Dynamics, the company best known for its agile robots that mimic animals.
Executives at the Internet giant are circumspect about what exactly they plan to do with their robot collection. But Boston Dynamics and its animal kingdom-themed machines bring significant cachet to Google’s robotic efforts, which are being led by Andy Rubin, the Google executive who spearheaded the development of Android, the world’s most widely used smartphone software.
The deal is also 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.
Boston Dynamics was founded in 1992 by Marc Raibert, a former professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It has not sold robots commercially, but has pushed the limits of mobile and off-road robotics technology, mostly for Pentagon clients like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa. Early on, the company also did consulting work for Sony on consumer robots like the Aibo robotic dog.
Boston Dynamics’ walking robots have a reputation for being extraordinarily agile, able to walk over rough terrain and handle surfaces that in some cases are challenging even for humans.
One use might be for Google Maps, where cars aren’t capable of going, in the short term. Long term? Your guess is as good as mine.