Google has confirmed that it has acquired Boston Dynamics, a company specializing in building robots for civilian use but also for the U.S. military. The company also develops the human simulation software DI- Guy. The robots designed by the company are generally quadrupeds but it recently developed Petman, another project funded by DARPA that is bipedal instead.
Boston Dynamics was created in 1992 as a spin-off of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) by Marc Raibert, who was then a professor of that university. Over the years, the company has become famous for its various models of robots that mimic the movements of animals and humans. They include WildCat, BigDog and Cheetah, which can run faster than the world’s best sprinters although not as fast a true cheetah.
Working with DARPA, Boston Dynamics takes part with the humanoid robot Atlas, an evolution of the Petman project, to the DARPA Robotics Challenge. It’s a competition with a prize of $2 million whose goal is to create robots that can work in areas where there has been a natural disaster or other catastrophic events such as an accident in a nuclear power plant.
Robots such as Atlas are intended to replace humans in dangerous operations. They must be very sophisticated because it’s not sufficient to be resistant to radiation and other hazards but they must be able to perform delicate operations such as the use of equipment built for humans.
The confirmation of the acquisition of Boston Dynamics by Google hasn’t provided an explanation of its reasons. Also thinking about other projects of the Mountain View company on artificial intelligence, especially after the beginning of the collaboration with Ray Kurzweil, considerations between the ironic and the fearful have arrived about the possibility that Google is now developments Skynet. Of course, the similarity of the Atlas robot with a Terminator helps these ideas, which we hope will remain just jokes.
What is certain is that Andy Rubin, the Google executive behind the development of Android, is now leading the company’s efforts in the field of robotics. The company silently purchased various start-ups specialized in this field and some specialized in artificial intelligence. In short, Google intends to develop some kind of robot but for the moment doesn’t want to reveals its plans.