Google Buys Another Robot Maker, Boston Dynamics

Like a voracious robot itself, Google is gobbling up robotics companies. The latest is Boston Dynamics, confirmed Friday.

The Waltham, Mass.-based Boston Dynamics is best known for its battlefield robots, which go by such names as BigDog, Cheetah, WildCat and Atlas. Terms of the deal, the eighth such acquisition in the last six months, were not announced.

The Boston Dynamics robots are characterized by their extreme walking, balancing and galloping abilities. One of the robots, Cheetah, can run up to 29 miles per hour, and BigDog can traverse hills or stay upright even in response to a direct kick by a human.

EUMoonshotEU Projects

Founded in 1992 by former M.I.T. professor Marc Raibert, the companyEUs robots have largely been developed under contract with the PentagonEUs Defense Advance Research Projects Agency.

The big question is focused around GoogleEUs intentions for these robots, heightened by its assignment of executive Andy Rubin, who led the development of Android, to oversee the robotics initiative. It is one of the companyEUs EUmoonshotEU projects, so named because it is a highly ambitious, longshot effort that could go up in a puff of smoke -- or could change the world.

There are reportedly Google development teams working on robots in Japan as well as in California. While Google has indicated it will continue Boston DynamicsEU defense contracts, it is apparently not intent on expanding its portfolio into becoming a major military contractor.

Brad Shimmin, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, told us that the robot acquisitions EUseem like a next stepEU in the context of GoogleEUs development of autonomous, self-driving cars. He said the company may be looking to create a new generation of self- or semi-autonomous robots for business or consumer markets, such as a robot that could deliver mail or packages in an office or to a building.

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