Google’s latest robot and intelligence system acquisitions : Vision and motive
It is evident that robots and intelligence systems will dominate our future and probably even come at par with humans when it comes to intellect. They will make for a very human like companions, with a brain of their own and let’s hope they don’t take over the human race as we are getting too innovative in creating robots for our own good. But over the last year or so a strange juggernaut of acquisitions by Google has rolled down the internet cloud and raised many eyebrows. Google has been acquiring companies that have something to do with robotics/AI and it is quite strange as the internet giant is carrying out these completely unrelated takeovers. So, what is Google up to, and what is driving it to add robotics and intelligence systems to its line of products and services? Only Google can answer this question with clarity, but do you expect them to reveal their secret? I’m sure not.
The next best way is to assimilate their strategic move to acquire robotic and intelligence firms for millions of dollars, and then make a conclusion of what Google has in stall for us in the future. Before making that verdict let’s first have a look at the major acquisitions that Google has made lately and evaluate the motive behind it.
# Robotics startup Schaft Inc.
How could Google ignore the Japanese market in hunt for its robotics treasure chest? So, in November 2013 it gobbled up robotic venture Schaft Inc. founded by Takashi Kato in May 2012 for making disaster response robots after the unfortunate 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The company got funding from the U.S government. The company created a 95 kilogram two-legged robot that won the competition hosted by U.S. Department of Defense’s research unit, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
# Robotics engineering company Boston Dynamics
Established in 1992 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston Dynamics is well-known for its flamboyant line-up of robots including an animal-like robot that runs at high speeds and a humanoid robot called Atlas that works in hazardous conditions. The firm was acquired for an undisclosed amount but it is somewhere close to $11 million as the firm was funded by DARPA for robotics development.
# Artificial intelligence startup DeepMind
One of the largest European acquisitions till date, DeepMind Technologies (London-based artificial intelligence firm) that is a pioneer in machine learning, advanced algorithms and system neuroscience has been taken-over by Google for estimated £400m ($650 million). The firm was founded by chess prodigy & neuroscientist Demis Hassabis along with Mustafa Suleyman and Shane LeggDeepMind who have developed computer systems capable of playing computer games. With a vision for developing computers that think like humans falls just in the periphery of Google’s rampage for taking-over robotic and intelligence firms.
# Intelligence systems company Nest Labs
Going a bit astray from the core robotics firms, Google added Nest Labs to its line-up by paying $3.2 billion in cash. Nest is the pioneer when it comes to automated home automation systems like Nest Learning Thermostat and Protect smoke detector. Google is going to keep the Nest division an independent functioning entity and the acquisition has been made probably to strengthen the home automation systems with its in-house language recognition capabilities.
# Bot & Dolly and Autofuss
Google acquired both Autofuss and Bot & Dolly which are both sister companies that specialize in advertising & design and cinematic automation. The recent example of the Bot & Dolly’s excellence in creating robotics systems is the use of robotic control cameras in Gravity movie. For example while shooting astronaut’s faces as they spun in zero gravity.
While Autofuss on the other hand specializes in motion designing, animation and use of robotics in promotional videos for big companies. Spear-headed with an army of illustrators, architects and machinists; the company amalgamates high-end visual artistry with programming skills.
# Meka Robotics
This robotics company acquired by Google has a niche for getting together humans and robots to work together in harmony. Meka Robotics has made popular robots like the $340,000 M1 Mobile Manipulator which has two arms, kinetic sensor and omnidirectional wheel base for movement in any direction with utmost ease.
# Industrial perception
Industrial perception is a company that focuses on making robots more functional and accurate at doing industrial tasks such as loading/unloading of cargo, picking up objects and identifying objects around it. Google has acquired this company too which is a pro at designing software for robots to extend their possibilities a notch further.
Why this robotics spree?
It is pretty clear from the acquisitions Google has made that they want to become the leaders in next generation of intelligent computing. Combining robotics with intelligent software systems and their in-house products like Google Glasses for creating humanoids that are more human-like and capable of disseminating information or services.
Google has determined that human-computer interaction, intelligent systems and automation of services by robotics is inevitable and in the coming years it will be a huge market to cater to. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is where Google is heading to with an army of all the services and products that will help it in doing so. Robotics and intelligence systems doubled up with the Google’s products and services could be a perfect recipe for future tech.
Spending millions of dollars on such acquisitions is surely based on a vision for future of technology that Google wants to lead in the coming years. That is the reason why robotics is in the middle of its crosshair being target towards providing the end-users with an unmatchable experience to experience the world like they have never done before.