In the Terminator franchise, Skynet was a military defense system developed by Cyberdyne. Naturally, the AI quickly went rogue and conquered mankind, leading to a dark, dystopian future where man eked out a living under the thumb of his machine overlords. In the real world, it might be Google that takes the first step towards such a future.
The search engine giant today acquired Boston Dynamics, one of the worlds largest and most advanced robotics companies. This engineering firm has designed robots for Pentagon, and has very close ties to DARPA. As robotics firms go, explains Singularity University's Neil Jacobstein, "Boston Dynamics is the pick of the litter."
Boston Dynamics is famed for robots such as BigDog, which is capable of walking on ice; Cheetah, which can reach running speeds of up to 29 miles per hour; the Sandflea, which can jump up to 9 meters; and WildCat, which can effortlessly operate on all sorts of difficult terrain.
What's more, although Boston Dynamics may well be the most significant robotics purchase Google's made recently, it's far from the only one. Over the past six months, the organization's gone on a buying spree, picking up no less than seven robotics startups, including Bot & Dolly, Autofuss, and Industrial Perception. Clearly, Google's got something big in mind with all these acquisitions...but what is it?
Well, we're not really sure. But we can certainly speculate.
Now, we know that Andy Rubin - the Google executive who originally managed Android development - has taken charge of Google's robotics projects. Granted, that doesn't exactly tell us a great deal; it's not terribly likely that any of the tech Google's gotten its hands on with this acquisition is going to end up going into a smartphone of any sort. Likely as not, all the stuff they've purchased is going to wind up as part of some secret project at Google X, the organization's research division.
See, one thing we know about Google is that the company and its executives have always made a point of being on the bleeding edge of technological development. Google X has been responsible for some positively wild inventions, such as Google Glass, a Smart Car, and even a Space Elevator. Again, none of this actually tells us what it is Google plans to do with all the companies its purchased. To answer that question we'll need to look closer at what those organizations specialize in.
"Given the majority of smart and new money going to startups today is targeting sensor technology, it's clear what Google's goal is," explained CBC business commentator Kevin O'Leary. "These robots are basically a bundle of sensors. What Google is doing here is simply buying a company that's extremely advanced at writing software to interface with sensors."
"The deal is also the clearest indication yet that Google is intent on building a new class of autonomous systems that might do anything from warehouse work to package delivery and even elder care," adds the New York Times.
Regardless of what Google's ultimate plans are for its acquisitions, one thing is clear. We need to brace ourselves, because Google's got a robot army in the wings. Lucky thing that their corporate philosophy is "don't be evil," right?