Google recently acquired Boston Dynamics, maker of humanoid and animalistic robots.
The front page tech news on Monday was that Google had opened its giant wallet once again to shell out a cool $400 million for artificial intelligence firm, Deep Mind Technologies. The purchase of Deep Mind makes four acquisitions already for Google in 2014. Google’s acquisitions are wide-ranging, which makes sense for a corporation with its fingers in as many pies as Google, but looking at the dozen acquisitions Google has made since December, we can get a sense of the future as Google envisions it.
In a word: robotics.
In two words: smart machines.
In the past two months, Google has snapped up companies involved in robotic arms, robotic wheels, robotic cameras, humanoid robots, computer vision, and now, artificial intelligence. That’s not so much a trend as a land grab.
Additionally, you may recall that Google brought in Nest, maker of a smart thermostat/smoke alarm for $3.2 billion.
Google may see a world in which the 70s sci-fi vision of helper robots is realized, and that more and more is operated through our phones (Nest thermostats can be controlled through an app). Perhaps the principle use of all these robotics will be in manufacturing, but that doesn’t explain why Google would acquire two companies, Schaft Inc. and Boston Dynamics, known for humanoid robots.
The key for these machines is that they will be “smart,” meaning that they will learn from their users. Nest thermostats could presumably learn your patterns of when you are in and out of the house, and anticipate them. Your helper robot could learn how you like your coffee through feedback.
Whether it’s primarily in offices, homes or businesses, Google is looking toward a world of commercial, layperson friendly robots. They are betting billions on this being a real possibility, and not just another generation’s unrealized vision.