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Google Acquires Boston Dynamics 104

Posted by timothy
from the oh-you're-just-paranoid dept.
First time accepted submitter totally_mad writes "The New York Times reports that Google has acquired Boston Dynamics, a company that is primarily a concept robot maker for the military. The robot wars appear to be heating up between the big corporations, with Amazon recently announcing plans to have 30-minute home deliveries using drones. Perhaps Boston Dynamics', or now Google's, Cheetah will outrun the drone!"
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Google Acquires Boston Dynamics

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  • Robot cheetah drops package at door step, rings the bell and runs like a scared child before the door can be answered. Just like the hoomans working for UPS and FedEx!
    • It's a stupid name. By analogy with Fahrenheit 451, I propose to name it the Mechanical Retriever.
    • I prefer to imagine the robo-cheetah batting at a quadcopter while the herd of big-dogs watch from a distance and begin forming a protective circle.
      Whichever gets photographic proof of delivery earns the energy credit to survive. Let natural selection do the rest.

    • by mrops (927562)

      With 8 stitches in my hand, not more than 12 hours ago. I have just gained new respect for multirotors, they are powerful beast.

      I really really hope that Amazon puts proper protection in them drones so there are no injuries. The little toy one I have spins at around 5000 rpm with rotors with 16 inches propellers. It can cause serious injuries, just ask my hand.

      Who will be responsible if an injury does occur, which they will. If you look at the Amazon prime air demo, the customer asks the drone to descend vi

    • by Krishnoid (984597)
      Remove the package from the equation, and finally we can automate and/or outsource ding-dong-ditch.
  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Saturday December 14, 2013 @09:30AM (#45688875)

    Will they maintain its current (quite lucrative) military business? I can almost see Google becoming a defense contractor, and it would be one way of addressing their "we need revenue streams other than search ads" issue, which has been their main risk on the financial side for years.

    But defense contracting would be a bit of a shift in how they like to do business, and I'm not sure a positive one. Alternately, they could just repurpose the acquired tech and expertise towards Google's own robotics projects, and dump the military clients. That would be leaving quite a bit of money and existing business on the table, though, not to mention possibly annoying some politically powerful folks.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      they replace their inhouse robotics dept with it of course, since they have market experience..

      you know, google video-> buy youtube, kill gvids...

    • by Assmasher (456699)

      BDI's defense income is insignificant for Google, but the acquisition is a great risk mitigation tactic for anyone wanting to get into robotics in a big way.

      • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

        yeah but why do they want to get into robotics, other than because they're big nerds? what is the defensible business reason for expanding into robots? whatever happened with more wood behind fewer arrows. sure, they cancel reader but now make hunter-killers.

        • I don't see how there's no overlap with these robots and autonomous cars.

          They didn't cancel that program.

          • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

            autonomous cars make no sense either. wheres the nexus? somebody has way too much money. its a shame because competition sharpens the mind and makes you produce disciplined well designed products. when there's no budget and no competition you just indulge your inner nerd and make products that have great demos in the 'plex then nothing happens.

            • wheres the nexus?

              Complex software. Recognizing objects in images and video seem to be one thing search, autonomous cars, and military robots have in common.

              • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

                wheres the nexus?

                Complex software. Recognizing objects in images and video seem to be one thing search, autonomous cars, and military robots have in common.

                that's super, but what's the nexus between robots, autonomous cars, etc, and advertising supported search? the way they make money is by1) providing free services to consumers that are supported by advertising and 2) monitoring consumer behavior so they can place smart ads and make more money from them. where do robots fit in here. how will they be tied to advertising. how will they be tied to data tracking.

                • Automated cars means all that wasted time consumers spend paying attention to the road can be redirected to Google services and ads. But really where the big money will be, is space mining. Teams of Autonomous vehicles, with enough smarts not to get stuck making Google doodles on the moon.
            • I assumed that the cars involved :

              1) seeing the tech overlap with image search
              2) they had the money to do it
              3) someone really wanted them

              Maybe they can make money, licensing to manufacturers, though I doubt it, it seems manufacturers already have the tech, based on recent news stories. Google appears to have been the first to seriously start testing it in real world rather than tech demos though, maybe they thought they were further ahead. Certainly autonomous cars will increase overall internet usage, thus

            • by timeOday (582209) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @04:22PM (#45691063)
              I think you're nuts. Automating transportation will dwarf the search business.
            • by Jeremi (14640)

              autonomous cars make no sense either. wheres the nexus?

              Isn't it obvious? Few people will pay $100,000 extra for a self-driving car... but lots of people would pay $100,000 for a bipedal robot that not only chauffeurs you around town in your existing car, but also does light housecleaning and yard work. ;)

        • by symbolset (646467) *
          Andy Rubin wants to do robots. His last project turned out well, so he gets to make robots.
          • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

            yes, this is a good explanation. i wonder what the purchase price was though. that's a big slush fund just cuz your last project was good.

            • by symbolset (646467) * on Saturday December 14, 2013 @02:35PM (#45690433) Journal
              Not just this one project, Android, sold to Google for $50M and turned into a global mobile powerhouse that transformed the world. Some of his previous products turned out nicely as well. He was responsible WebTV, which sold to Microsoft for $425M before they turned it into nothing special. And for the Sidekick (Danger, Inc), which was huge for a while and the company sold to Microsoft for $1B before they turned it into the Kin and killed it. He is a serial innovator with grand vision and a long history of success. One of a handful of people at this level on the planet.
    • What could get interesting is the combination of those robot technologies with technologies to interpret the environment developed for Google's self-driving cars.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by flyingfsck (986395)
      Google works for the NSA, which is a military organization - so Google already is a defence contractor.
      • by Trepidity (597)

        That doesn't really make them a defense contractor; sharing some data with the NSA doesn't involve the whole procurement game that is the mainstay of defense contracting.

        • Hmm, well, we tried searching for other bidders to fulfil the contract, but the only result was Google's products. We went to Bing, but it was the same, almost as if they're copying Google's results...

      • by sky770 (2731643)
        Nope..the word you are looking for is "compliance".
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Two questions
      1. Is the revenue from the defense work of value to Google
      2. Is Boston Dynamics' defense work of value to the military

      If either or both of those are true then you might see a spin off or divestment of the military work to a 'slightly evil' company that would not be google... because they re not evil

    • I for one hope that robotics will provide Google with a revenue stream other than ads and customer data. That way they might at some point create consumer robots which are designed with our benefit in mind, rather than that of advertisers. Then again, they might be tempted to leverage robotics for even more enhanced, soul-sucking data mining.

      Would you trust a Google household robot to not scan your house and every single product in it, and relaying the data back to its corporate overlord?
      • by aix tom (902140)

        I for one hope that robotics will provide Google with a revenue stream other than ads and customer data.

        Or they simply want thug-bots that can go to your house and beat you up in person to get information, instead of just mining it out of your electronic devices.

        • by wagnerrp (1305589)
          Then they can sell ads for medical services, home repair services, security services, law services....
    • "We do no evil...
       
      ...not ourselves anyway...
       
      ...we leave that to our robots"

    • Alternately, they could just repurpose the acquired tech and expertise towards Google's own robotics projects, and dump the military clients

      yeah, I have to admit to being pretty disturbed imagining BD's robots weaponized and on the battlefront. This news is potentially awesome.

      I want to think that Google is going to build the world's most amazing wheelchairs and alternative (self-driving) transportation devices.

      • by wagnerrp (1305589)
        BD's biggest issue was always, and still is, a power source. Their packbots that are supposed to support foot troops in the field need to be stealthy. You can't be stealthy if your very operation requires a noisy gasoline engine.
    • by drolli (522659)

      Ads (Imagine big LCDs on the side of cheeta) on the Battlefield?

      Google for Terrorists (face recogniton from autonomous patrolling robots)?

      Streetview for patrolling dangerous areas?

      Home deliveries (Much better than flying drones)?

      Streetview inside shops and stations?

    • by RayHs (888369)
      How cool would it be if they entered the Iditarod with a fully automated team with a sled pulled by BidDogs and manned by Atlas. Forget self driving cars, I want to ride WildCat to work.
    • But defense contracting would be a bit of a shift in how they like to do business, and I'm not sure a positive one. Alternately, they could just repurpose the acquired tech and expertise towards Google's own robotics projects, and dump the military clients. That would be leaving quite a bit of money and existing business on the table, though, not to mention possibly annoying some politically powerful folks.

      Boston Dynamics *is* a defense contractor, so by extension Google is one too, now. I am going to try to remain optimistic about the positive effects that Google can have on human advancement. Science and engineering seem to leap forward much farther and much, much faster when they are deployed in the service of armed conflict. Companies like Planetary Resources, Armadillo Aerospace, and SpaceX are going to have to be able to defend their extra-terrestial ventures, and NASA has demonstrated beyond a shado

  • DARPA droids! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DaTrueDave (992134) * on Saturday December 14, 2013 @09:37AM (#45688903)

    We've already seen some of the incredible Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency [darpa.mil] droids that have come out of that shop, and one can only imagine what designs might be classified and unknown to the public.

    There's the humanoid robot, Atlas [youtube.com].
    The RC car with a secret, the SandFlea [youtube.com].
    There's the robot that runs faster than any man, Cheetah [youtube.com].
    The packmule that can't be tipped over, Big Dog [youtube.com].
    And the frightening combination of tech, the robot that runs fast on ANY terrain, WildCat [youtube.com].

    It will be interesting to see what Google does with their droids. Their robot shop is being headed by the guy that made Android the most popular smartphone OS, Andy Rubin [slashdot.org]. He tweeted a link to the New York Times story yesterday, along with the comment, "The future is looking awesome!" Rubin was a robotics engineer for Apple, and the lens company, Carl Zeiss, before starting with Google.

    Regardless of your feelings about droids, I think we're going to see huge advances in robotics now that Google is jumping in with both feet.

  • Wow, this is getting a bit scary. I didn't expect Google to go ahead and snatch up a company like Boston Dynamics. If they pick up Hanson robotics I'm going to be incredibly excited/freaked out for what they might create.
    • by Xest (935314)

      A rideable big dog, directed by where you look using Google glass.

      I look forward to riding my unfalling metal steed to work.

  • I, for one... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blackbeak (1227080) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @09:42AM (#45688921)
    I, for one, would like someone to please tell me when it's time to say "Goodbye" to our new overlords!
  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @09:53AM (#45688963)
    Boston Dynamics is a favorite company of mine, they have developed some remarkable technologies. Atlas is easily one of the most advanced bi-pedal robots yet developed - albeit also the stupidest. When I consider that the majority of their R&D seems to be for the military, it makes me more than a little curious what Google plans to do with their new toys. I don't see Google going into the business of military hardware, yet the military has been more than interested in some of the tech they have developed. It boggles my mind to think what Google will do with this.
    • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @12:08PM (#45689609)

      Well, if you're going to beat swords into plowshares, it would be great to do it before the swords are wielded in anger -- and even more efficient to do it before you spend all the time to forge, temper and sharpen them.

      The technologies BD developed to make these robots work certainly have non-military uses. I'm not sure how they apply to data-gathering and marketing, though. Maybe some parts of Google really are interested in advancing technology for its own sake...?

    • by drgould (24404)

      it makes me more than a little curious what Google plans to do with their new toys.

      Well, they already have autonomous vehicles and if they can add autonomy to "Atlas", then they can replace FedEx and UPS package delivery.

      Although that's something I'd expect Amazon to experiment with.

  • I was pretty well convinced that the NSA and it's data sniffing what-not has become self-aware and is the first to do so. That may still be the case...

    But I'm not pretty sure that the Googleplex is now self-aware and is trying to make itself self-mobile.

    Next step, the Nexus-1000 Terminator....

    • "now"...But I'm NOW pretty sure that the Googleplex is now self-aware and is trying to make itself self-mobile.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 14, 2013 @10:34AM (#45689121)

    soooo...

    lemme see if I got this straight: the company who built skynet has acquired the company that's just built the first cylon? don't see this ending well...

    hopefully we at least get to meet the Tricia Helfer, Grace Park, Rekha Sharma & Lucy Lawless models before we're wiped out!

  • Google's hardware record is shaky. Unlike their software, most HW projects never venture far from the googleplex. From Glass, to self driving cars, products are long in development with a handful of testers. This is not at all like their bold software formula: buy a cool tech startup, then rebuild it at scale and make $$. Yes, they need a visionary, but also someone that is not afraid to deliver it.
  • Along Google's expansion into military "appliances" warfare will be much easier and result in practically no collateral damage.
    Imagine the combination of geolocation, autonomous cars and autonomous war drones.
    "Terrorists" would frequently be transported into specially prepared killing zones, with specially prepared, hardened parking lots, for optimum munition utilization.
    DOD would receive a weekly auto generated report of kills.
    Merry Christmas

  • by dywolf (2673597) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @12:32PM (#45689741)

    And in other news, following a shakeup at the top levels, Google is being renamed Cyberdyne Systems (NASDAQ: CDSYS).

    No word yet on whether the motto "Do No Evil" will remain in place or be changed.

    Top executives after the shakeup say their new focus will be on merging their artificial intelligence development projects with newly developed tech such as Google Glass and robotics, in order to create life-like avatars. These avatars can be used as surrogates for disabled person, or even to replace human workers in extremely hazardous occupations. There has been speculation as well that these would also be used to gather even more data from the real world to further enhance their marketing capabilities. The military has also expressed in interest in these avatars.

    • No, this is just Google admitting their driverless car project is a failure. So they'll replace the car with a real Android driver that will chat you up while driving you to work, "Sir, there's they're having a 50% off sale at XXX.com. Would you like me to get you a promo code?"
  • So when are they gonna make a contract with a handsome musciline guy to model for their T series?
  • "The virtual version of Zoe was created by Zoe Graystone herself using hacked rudimentary emulation software capable of duplicating her own V-World avatar. Graystone programmed the copy - a perfect copy - with roughly 100 terabytes of personal information from other databases. This allowed the avatar to access and translate information from medical scans, DNA profiles, psychological evaluations, school records, emails, video and audio recordings, CAT scans, genetic typing, synaptic records, security cameras
  • by Chuq (8564)

    .. William Bell or Nina Sharp made a comment?

  • So, now can they just load the driving software into Atlas? instant marketable product...buy a driver for all the benefits of the AI driving without having to buy a new car!
    Or load the same software into Cheetah and it can run deliveries down streets and right up to your door! That will show Amazon!
  • Google bought out Motorola Mobility a while back and I got excited about that. From a buyer's point of view, I haven't seen anything cool come out of it. I don't expect much different with this.

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