By Glyn Taylor on 04/12/2013 about 

In an interview with the New York Times, Andy Rubin has announced he is heading a Google project to build robots. The news comes after Amazon announced it’s plans to deliver packages with drones. Let the robotics revolution begin.

Andy Rubin was the man behind Google’s hugely successful Android operating system. Fitting then that he is now moving on to build androids in the literal sense of the word.

Google’s soaking up of robotics companies has been going on secretly for the past 6 months. It is evident from the scale of investment, that Google’s robotic endeavour is no mere hobby.

So far, Google has revealed very little information about its robotics plans. What we know though is that they are far from ready to offer robots for consumer use. According to ”several people with specific knowledge of the project,” the robots will initially be designed for use within the manufacturing and retailing industries. This is logical, with their need for the project to deliver initial profits.

Through their development and initial successful use, logically the next step in the evolution of the robots would be to go on to help people with disabilities. Through their popularity, logically they would become cheaper to manufacture, and so the next stage will be for them to become available for use in consumer households.

Andy Rubin

Andy Rubin

“Like any moonshot, you have to think of time as a factor,” Mr Rubin said. “We need enough runway and a 10-year vision.”

Mr Rubin compared the effort with the company’s self-driving car project, which was started in 2009. “The automated car project was science fiction when it started,” he said. “Now it is coming within reach.”

The companies that Google has acquired have developed technologies that are needed to build a mobile, dexterous robot. Google is also pursuing additional acquisitions.

The Google robotics group will initially be based in Palo Alto, with an office also in Japan. Mr Rubin is hiring roboticists, and bringing in other Google programmers to assist in the project. No doubt he will also be working in collaboration with Ray Kurzweil, head of engineering in Google’s Strong Artificial Intelligence department.

Mr Rubin is hoping that the robotics industry will be free from the complexity that currently engulfs the consumer electronics industry. “We’re building hardware, we’re building software. We’re building systems, so one team will be able to understand the whole stack”, he said. Mr Rubin has a clear vision for efficiency in the development and deployment of his technologies.

Google is clearly making moves to become the world leaders in the technologies that are turning our science fiction future, into an imminent reality. Recently they have also formed a partner company called Calico, which aims to achieve human immortality.

The 7 robotic companies acquired by Google:

Meka (US)
“A provider of world-class robotic systems for researchers. At Meka we develop human-safe, human-soft, and human-scale robot technologies that will enable the robots of tomorrow to work alongside people in the home and the workplace.”

Schaft (Japan)
“We, Schaft Inc. create the future where we walk together with humanoid robots, through research and development, manufacture and sales of humanoid robots.”

Industrial Perception (US)
“A leader in 3D vision-guided robot technology and enables industrial robots to assume challenging logistical tasks such as truck and container unloading, e-commerce fulfillment and package sorting.”

Redwood Robotics (US)
“Our robotic arms are simple to teach, affordable, and safe to operate around humans. Redwood manipulators will make professionals more productive, reduce the stress of dull and repetitive tasks, and allow manufacturers and service providers alike to respond flexibly to ever-changing market needs.”

Bot & Dolly (US)
“Bot & Dolly is a design and engineering studio that specialises in automation, robotics, and filmmaking. It’s our mission to advance motion control and automation as a creative medium, and build world-class tools that enable others to do the same.”

Autofuss (US)
“We thrive on being a hub of creative collaboration by colliding visual artists with programmers, engineers with designers, storytellers with illustrators, architects with machinists.” (Autofuss is the outlier here, being a creative agency rather than a robotics company – but according to the NYT piece, it’s part of Rubin’s robotics plans).

Holomni (US)
“Holomni powered caster modules create a holonomic omnidirectional vehicle. A Holomni-powered vehicle can instantaneously produce omnidirectional accelerations and forces.”


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