Google confirmed on Friday to The New York Times that it had completed the acquisition of Boston Dynamics, the engineering company that has designed robots for the Pentagon. The company, purchased for an undisclosed sum, is the eighth robotics company Google has acquired in the last several months.
Last week, the NY Times also reported that Google's newest "moonshot" effort to create a division focused on building and experimenting with robots would be developed by Andy Rubin, the boss behind Google's Android operating system. Unlike Google's computerised glasses or driverless cars, these robots will be available only to businesses that want to streamline the manufacturing process.
It's unclear if manufacturing will be Boston Dynamics' main purpose now that it is part of Google. An Oxford University study from last year predicted that 45 percent of United States jobs were "at high risk" of being lost to computerized machines.
Boston Dynamics robots, such as BigDog, Cheetah, WildCat and Atlas, have gained notoriety over the years through YouTube videos, GIFs and "the robots are taking over" half-curious, half-terrified reactions they create. The videos show agile, four-legged robots bustling through rough terrain, or sprinting around parking lots. One recent video showed their Cheetah robot sprinting 29 mph on a treadmill, faster than Usain Bolt in the 100-meter dash.
Check out a video of the WildCat in action below.
The company was founded in 1992 by Marc Raibert, a former professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and currently has multimillion dollar contracts with the U.S. military's advanced research division of DAPRA. The New York Times notes that while Google will honor Boston Dynamics' existing contracts, it has no plans to become a defense contractor "on its own."
One DARPA-funded project is the Atlas, a 6-foot 2-inch, 330-pound robot with 28 hydraulically actuated joints and two sets of hands capable of many natural human movements. The Atlas is part of Boston Dynamics' DARPA Robotics Challenge, where seven teams compete to create a robot that can navigate rough terrain, drive a car and in DARPA's words, "advance the technology necessary to create robots capable of assisting humans in disaster response."