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Mark Stephen Meadows on “What does it mean to have giants like Google, Apple and Amazon investing in robotics?”

February 12, 2014

Google, is the wild card for me.  With more acquisitions (DeepMind, Boston Dynamics, Redwood Robotics, Industrial Perception, Meka, Schaft, and others) than Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft combined, the GOOG looks to be rigging up a kit that would offer excellent image recognition + navigation + mobility.  A robot that can roam around your home or maybe your city, and offer a helpful service.  My bet is that these Googlebots (perhaps they will be cars) will have sharp eyes, simple yet helpful demeanors, and we’ll trade that robotic service for our personal info.  Then Google will sell that info to advertisers.  So the same Google formula the company has used with email, docs, voice, maps, and the others.

But overall, in regards to these three companies, this marks the beginning of an industry — an industry that will probably not be dominated by these three behemoths. It means we’re at the start of the robotics industry.  The gun went off in 2013 and the clattering has begun.

This “Industry Start” concept was Bill Gates’s — he’s the one that made this comparison in a now-famous article for Scientific American.  History’s repeating itself.  The comparisons are thick, worth reading, and intricate, and we can see this still playing out today. IBM was a major player in the PC revolution, but Apple (a scrappy and innovative little company) ate their lunch, as did Microsoft (that other scrappy little company that emerged as a bit of a parasite, writing the OS for these new PCs).  So even if one of these big three is still around in a few years, I won’t be surprised if the robotics market is actually eclipsed by a company we don’t yet know much about. I have to point out, though, that IBM is still a major player in the robotics market, with over US$1b invested last year and three more lined up for the coming year; their participation in Watson looks to be a serious participation in this industry.

In any case, it seems that our personal data will be a major revenue stream for these companies (and that this trail of bit-crumbs will lead salesmen to your doorstep).  Each of these three companies are linked to the sale of physical goods (Amazon and Apple are evident, but let’s remember that Google is an advertising company, so they are also dependant on links to sales channels).  The industry has begun, Google will be there to collect our information, and the robots will be there to sell it.

Who the buyer is, however, remains the key question.

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Mark Stephen Meadows
guest author
Mark Stephen Meadows is President of BOTanic, a company that provides natural language interfaces for conversational avatars, robots, IoT appliances, and connected systems.

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