updated 09:09 am EST, Sat December 14, 2013
Google buys company that designed robots for Pentagon
Google on Friday confirmed that it has completed its acquisition of Boston Dynamics, the engineering company that designed the BigDog robot for the Pentagon. The New York Times confirmed the acquisition early Saturday morning, noting that it represents the latest move by the search giant into the development of autonomous mechanical machines. Boston Dynamics is the eighth robotics company that Google has bought in the last six months.
Google has of recent been more open in expressing robotics as one of the company's numerous goals. Andy Rubin, who handed over control of Google's Android division to Sundar Pichai earlier this year, has already said that robots are among Google's many "moonshot" programs. Other moonshot operations include Google's self-driving car initiative and the company's Google Glass wearable computing project.
So far, Boston Dynamics has produced BigDog, Cheetah, WildCat, and Atlas, a range of gas-powered robots that can maintain their own balance while walking. BigDog, perhaps the most known of Boston Dynamics' creations, can run faster than the fastest humans, all while adjusting its gait to maintain balance.
The group's projects were successful enough to grab the attention of the Department of Defense. Boston Dynamics has already signed a $10.8 million contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) to develop humanoid robots as part of the Darpa Robotics Challenge. The goal of that project is to create robots that can enter spaces that humans and current machines cannot, such as the hazardous nuclear site in Fukushima, Japan.
Other Boston Dynamics projects are capable of climbing trees, running at up to 29 miles per hour, and performing other tasks. Google intends to integrate advanced sensor technology - which the company is also developing - into robots in the future.
Google has not revealed exactly how much it paid for Boston Dynamics. Nor will it release financial information on any of the other robotics companies it has acquired over the last half-year. Google plans to continue honoring existing military contracts, but it reportedly does not plan to become a military contractor on its own.