February 3, 2014

Since hiring Ray Kurzweil, Google has shown that it is very serious about his ideas. They have invested and acquired leading companies in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence and have spun off a new medical company with the goal of defeating aging. With this pattern in place, will Google now move more deliberately into the field of nanotechnology too?

When Ray Kurzweil was hired at Google a little over a year ago, Google Now was just a few months into release, and the company’s X labs had a few successes with self driving cars and the Google Glass prototypes.

Since then, the company has rapidly expanded into two of the three branches of GNR that Kurzweil called out in his, The Singularity Is Near.

Genetics, Nanotechnology and Robotics  are the primary building blocks of the impending Singularity as Kurzweil outlines the future. He calls them “the three overlapping revolutions,” and he says they will characterize the first half of the twenty-first century.

Of the three (GNR), Kurzweil believes that the most powerful impending revolution is the ‘R’ revolution. Included in his robotics category is artificial intelligence.  He says, “Human-level robots with their intelligence derived from our own but redesigned to far exceed human capabilities represent the most significant transformation, because intelligence is the most powerful ‘force’ in the universe. Intelligence, if sufficiently advanced, is, well, smart enough to anticipate and overcome any obstacles that stand in its path.”

Google was already well on the path to having the most advanced AI thought leaders and developments prior to hiring Kurzweil, but since then it has only extended these capabilities, hiring the likes of Geoff Hinton, and acquiring DeepMind and others.

The company also seems to be on the path to making true robotics with no less than eight additions including Meka Robotics, Redwood Robotics, Schaft, Industrial PerceptionBot & Dolly, Autofuss, Holomni, and Boston Dynamics.  The later, along with Schaft are leading humanoid robotics makers that have been highlighted in the DARPA Robotics Challenge.

The robotics work at Google will fall under Andy Rubin, the man behind the sucess of Google’s Android software,

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To round out the acquisitions, Google also added in the aesthetics and slick user interface design team from Nest.

Kurzweil writes, “These (GNR) will usher in the beginning of the Singularity. We are in the early stages of the ‘G’ revolution today. By understanding the information processes underlying life, we are starting to learn to reprogram our biology to achieve the virtual elimination of disease, dramatic expansion of human potential, and radical life extension.”

Google too has become more of a part of the ‘G’ revolution, with the creation of Calico in September last year.  This new health care company is said to be focused on solving aging and related diseases. Calico’s stated goals include extending the average human lifespan by 20 to 100 years and treating age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer, and heart disease.

Google has also been experimenting with smart medical devices. Its latest effort, the smart contact lens for diabetic patients, that reads glucose levels from tears. The smart contacts could disrupt existing medical devices in a big way, including the transfer of data to cloud-based services that medical device companies do not yet have. For Google, the task is now about creating devices to connect to its infrastructure, whereas other companies have to capitalize major resources to back up their products.

Google contact lens

So what is next for Google?  Will they go three-for-three on Kurzweil’s GNR?

Regarding nanotechnology, Kurzweil says, “The ‘N’ revolution will enable us to redesign and rebuild – molecule by molecule – our bodies and brains and the world with which we interact, going far beyond the limitations of biology.”

Since it started heavily investing in new technology companies, Google has had it’s eyes on nanotech.  “There’s a whole world of innovation out there outside of social media. It’s a huge growth area, but we’re investing a lot of money in life sciences,” said William Maris, Google Ventures managing partner told CNBC.

Maris said some of the areas he is interested in include businesses that are focused on radical life extension, cryogenics and nanotechnology.

For some, the integration of smaller and smaller devices into the body makes sense for Google. The development would be just a further extension of Glass or the contact lens.

Stephen E. Arnold writes, “A nano-device sounds just right to me. The interesting thought is that for many young people, a nano-device will be the obvious choice. Only old people carry a smartphone, wear a watch, or insert a contact lens.”

The plan is set.  So, with the ‘G’ and the ‘R’ already well underway, and with plenty of cash left to invest, look for Google to start making major moves in nanotech in the coming months too.

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