Andy Rubin, the Google executive who guided the development of the Android operating system, has a new project: building robots.
According to a new piece in The New York Times, Google has acquired seven robotics companies over the past year, but remains quiet about its plans for all those assets. Whatever the final goal, it will not be small: Rubin, at the helm of the effort, alludes to plans on the same scale—if not larger—as Google’s endeavors in self-driving cars and Google Glass. “Like any moonshot, you have to think of time as a factor,” he told the newspaper. “We need enough runway and a 10-year vision.”
But the Times article suggests Google’s robotics projects could make their debut in the nearer-term. Despite its origins as an Internet company, Google has increasing interests in real-world concerns such as manufacturing and product delivery—all of which, at least in theory, could be improved via robotic automation. If Google robots can lower the company’s infrastructure costs, it can sell and deliver goods at lower price-points, which could allow it to better compete against rivals such as Amazon.
“I feel with robotics it’s a green field,” Rubin added. “We’re building hardware, we’re building software. We’re building systems, so one team will be able to understand the whole stack.”
The unveiling of Rubin’s new role comes days after Amazon revealed its own efforts to deliver packages to customers via flying drones. While some pundits dismissed the initiative as a Cyber Monday publicity stunt, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos did show off a series of prototypes to television journalist Charlie Rose, and the company seems determined to have the airborne robots flying to customers’ doors by 2015.
“The FAA is actively working on rules and an approach for unmanned aerial vehicles that will prioritize public safety,” read an accompanying note on Amazon’s Website. “Safety will be our top priority, and our vehicles will be built with multiple redundancies and designed to commercial aviation standards.”
Whether or not the drones actually launch, it’s clear that the biggest tech firms are exploring robotics as a way to improve their businesses—initiatives that could potentially launch a Robot Renaissance within the broader tech industry.
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