Google is serious about becoming a major player in the robotics industry. The search engine giant was in the news earlier this month for appointing former Android chief Andy Rubin to speahead its new project of developing robots and now the company is in the news again - this time for buying Boston Dynamics, an engineering and robotics design firm known for developing robots inspired by the animal kingdom.
On Friday, December 12, Google confirmed the completion of the acquisition of the Waltham, Massachusetts-based Boston Dynamics, which has also designed robots for the U.S. military.
With the recent deal, Google is sending indications regarding its intentions of becoming a serious player in the robotics industry.
Dr. Marc Raibert, a former professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) founded Boston Dynamics in 1992. The company's animal kingdom-based walking robots are very agile, able to walk over rough terrain and can also handle surfaces that may be challenging for humans.
In 2005, Boston Dynamics created a quadrupedal robot called BigDog in collaboration with Foster-Miller, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Harvard University Concord Field Station. The project was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Boston Dynamics is also supplying DARPA with robots called Atlas to participate in the DARPA Robotic challenge. The contest's key objective is to create robots that can operate and function in natural disasters and catastrophes such as the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown.
"Competitions like the Darpa Robotics Challenge stretch participants to try to solve problems that matter and we hope to learn from the teams' insights around disaster relief," per a statement released by Google. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The company will honor Boston Dynamics' existing contracts but has no intention to become a defense contractor itself.
Boston Dynamics has also created a number of robots such as Cheetah (which can run faster than Usain Bolt) and WildCat, which have gained popularity after the company posted videos of the robots in action.
Till now, the robots created by Boston Dynamics have only been available only to businesses; however, with the recent acquisition, Google may create smaller robots, which may also make their way to shelves for sale to retail customers.
Google has not confirmed any of its plans on how it will utilize Boston Dynamics acquisition in the near term, but, don't worry, it will not let loose Boston Dynamics' Cheetah (see video below) on the streets. However, we wouldn't be surprised if Google decides to replace its Street Views cars with camera-equipped robots that can travel over rough terrains and help Google map difficult-to-reach areas.
"I am excited by Andy and Google's ability to think very, very big," Dr. Raibert said, "with the resources to make it happen."
This is not the first time Google has bought a robotics company. Some of the earlier acquisitions include Redwood Robotics, Autofuss, Bot & Dolly, Schaft, Holomni, and Meka.
Shares of Google closed 0.86 percent down at $1,060.79 on NASDAQ on Friday.