Over the last half-year, Google has quietly acquired seven technology companies in an effort to create a new generation of robots. And the engineer heading the effort is Andy Rubin, the man who built Google’s Android software into the world’s dominant force in smartphones.
According to a report in the New York Times, Rubin says that Google’s robotics efforts should be viewed as a ten-year vision. The company has secretly acquired seven robotics-related companies in the US and Japan, which have technologies capable of creating a mobile robot. Rubin notes that breakthroughs are still needed for software and sensors, but hardware issues like moving hands and arms have been solved.
Google CEO Larry Page says in a Google+ update that he is excited about Rubin’s project. “His last big bet, Android, started off as a crazy idea that ended up putting a supercomputer in hundreds of millions of pockets. It is still very early days for this, but I can’t wait to see the progress.”
The company is tight-lipped about its specific plans, but the scale of the investment, which has not been previously disclosed, indicates that this is no cute science project.
The NY Times reports:
Earlier this year, Mr. Rubin stepped down as head of the company’s Android smartphone division. Since then he has convinced Google’s founders, Sergey Brin and Mr. Page, that the time is now right for such a venture, and they have opened Google’s checkbook to back him. He declined to say how much the company would spend.
Mr. Rubin has secretly acquired an array of robotics and artificial intelligence start-up companies in the United States and Japan.
Among the companies are Schaft, a small team of Japanese roboticists who recently left Tokyo University to develop a humanoid robot (and is taking part in the DARPA Challenge), and Industrial Perception, a start-up here that has developed computer vision systems and robot arms for loading and unloading trucks. Also acquired were Meka and Redwood Robotics, makers of humanoid robots and robot arms in San Francisco, and Bot & Dolly, a maker of robotic camera systems that were recently used to create special effects in the movie “Gravity.” A related firm, Autofuss, which focuses on advertising and design, and Holomni, a small design firm that makes high-tech wheels, were acquired as well.
The seven companies are capable of creating technologies needed to build a mobile, dexterous robot. Mr. Rubin said he was pursuing additional acquisitions.
The seven startups acquired by Google, include Japanese robotics company Schaft, Redwood Robotics, 3D vision company Industrial Perception, and Bot & Dolly (which built the robots that helped film Gravity). Google has also acquired Meka Robotics, advertising and design firm Autofuss, in addition to advanced wheel design firm Holomni.
- Google Acquired Seven Robotics Companies for Andy Rubin (allthingsd.com)