If you’ve recently wondered where all the roboticists were going, the answer is to an unassuming complex in Palo Alto. Google has backed Android developer Andy Rubin to acquire at least 7 major robotics companies, including Schaft, Industrial Perception Inc, Meka and Redwood Robotics. Other companies include Holomni, makers of high tech wheels, Bot&Dolly and Autofuss, the super cool robotics software companies behind the special effects in the film Gravity. Unsurprisingly, a number of the new acquisitions are also involved in the upcoming DARPA Robotics Challenge, where robots take on human scale problems in the latest Grand Challenge.
According to John Markoff’s interview with Andy Rubin in the New York Times, the new research company has plans for the manufacturing and logistics industry, with particular focus on the consumer electronics industry, where Rubin sees ‘clear opportunities’ to combat the increasing complexity of the massively growing field..
“I feel with robotics it’s a green field,” he said. “We’re building hardware, we’re building software. We’re building systems, so one team will be able to understand the whole stack.”
Google hasn’t yet announced whether or not this new robotics research group is a subsidiary or separate. But Rubin talks about a 10 year runway, and a vision. The vision is clearly to capitalize on the DARPA Grand Challenges, as Google has done so thoroughly with the automobile/self driving challenge. DARPA create challenges that plausibly have a 10 year solution, with sufficient early incentive and the self-driving cars have met most of the technical hurdles in less than a decade and now primarily face regulatory issues.
Google has purchased a number of teams and people involved in the upcoming DARPA Robotics Challenge or DRC, with an aim to commercializing humanoid robot research for manufacturing and logistics. And pure pleasure. With a 10 year runway, this is still a bit of a playground. Like Willow only double.