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Do no evil? Google to unveil military robots after acquiring Boston Dynamics

Sunday, December 29, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: Google, military robots, Boston Dynamics

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(NaturalNews) By now it should be patently obvious that Google has grown beyond just a simple Web search engine.

According to an analysis by Natural News, Google - which has transformed itself into a major media brand, as well as a technology company - has been acquiring other companies at a rapid clip, scooping up an average of one per week since 2010.

Most of the firms are American companies, but Google has also bought German, Australian, Swedish, Swiss, Brazilian, Finnish and South Korean companies, among others outside the U.S.

Included are firms that specialize in videoconferencing, photosharing, computer security, online advertising, travel and online payment technology.

But now, Google appears to have entered into the lucrative American defense industry, recently purchasing a robotics firm. As reported by the Financial Times (FT):

Google has snapped up the creator of the world's fastest running robot and other eerily realistic animal-like machines supplied to the US military.

The internet company's acquisition of Boston Dynamics is the latest in a string of robotics acquisitions in a mysterious initiative led by former Android chief Andy Rubin.

As Amazon readies a fleet of delivery drones, Boston Dynamics is Google's biggest prize yet in the robot wars.

Think the little bots featured in the "Terminator" movie series.

'The future is looking awesome!'

Among the robots that are able to crawl, jump and gallop from the Boston Dynamics labs are Big Dog, a four-legged machine capable of traversing uneven terrain like snowy forest floors - even when being kicked by its makers - and Cheetah, which so far boasts the record for the fastest legged robot in the world at 29 miles per hour.

A number of Boston Dynamics' creations have been developed with funding from the U.S. Department of Defense's secretive research unit, DARPA - or Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency - which has been responsible for much of the Pentagon's high-technology systems since the agency's establishment in 1958.

The acquisition makes Google a defense contractor - at least for the time being.

"The future is looking awesome!" said Rubin in a tweet linking to The New York Times, which first reported the Boston Dynamics purchase. FT reported that a Google spokesperson confirmed the deal but would not elaborate on its price or plans.

Google's purchase is a signal to many that there is a sudden, and perhaps startling, new interest in robotics from consumer Internet firms, as many of their operations shift from the virtual world to the real one.

Last year, for instance, Amazon spent $775 million to acquire Kiva Systems, a robotics firm that is used to automate its fulfillment centers. Also, earlier this month, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled plans for the online retailer to develop small drones that he wants to utilize to deliver small packages to customers quickly. Bezos hopes to get this initiative, er, "off the ground" within five years, but a lot of that will depend on rules for unmanned aerial vehicles currently being drafted by the Federal Aviation Administration.

'Don't be evil' just bought a robot maker

FT reported that Rubin stepped away from his position leading Google's Android mobile operation system in March, only revealing his new assignment after Bezos announced Amazon's drone initiative on CBS' 60 Minutes program.

As for Google, its ultimate objective for the company's growing robotics collection is not yet clear. Rubin's project, however, is among the firm's "moonshot" ventures, which include self-driving cars and balloons that could bring Internet connectivity to remote areas.

Bezos' other acquisitions include Bot & Dolly, which is a design studio that builds automated camera systems used in films such as "Gravity" and "Schaft," a spin-off from the University of Tokyo, "whose bipedal robots boast much stronger 'muscles' than other bots," FT reported.

Boston Dynamics was founded by Marc Raibert, a former MIT researcher, in 1992.

Not everyone is thrilled about Google's purchase.

"Which company that owns all our private data and has the motto 'Don't Be Evil' just bought a military robotics firm?" tweeted Joe Randazzo, the creative director at Adult Swim, a comedy and satire channel.

Sources:

http://www.ft.com

http://www.darpa.mil

http://www.slate.com

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