Drones, Shmones: Google Is Building An Army Of Androids That Don’t Fall When You Kick’em

While we’ve all got our eyes in the sky waiting for the robot revolution to start with Amazon (and burrito) drones, we must not be distracted by the threat on the ground. By threat I mean intelligent, walking, talking robots. Or more fittingly for Google, which quietly snapped up seven technology companies, androids.

Because drudgery and repetitive tasks like working in the back of a warehouse is something that robots can do to save humanity for more enlightened work, Google’s former head of Android smartphones, Andy Rubin, has bent his mind to the task of robotics.

He tells the New York Times that it’s a “moonshot” that won’t be aimed right away at consumers, and will instead focus on the manufacturing aspect of things like electronics assembly and automating parts of its own retail delivery system.

“The opportunity is massive,” a principal research scientist at the M.I.T. Center for Digital Business tells the NYT. “There are still people who walk around in factories and pick things up in distribution centers and work in the back rooms of grocery stores.”

What! People are still working at jobs where they have to pick stuff up? Crazy.

Anyway, it’ll be awhile before any robots start tramping around your neighborhood.

“Like any moonshot, you have to think of time as a factor,” Rubin said. “We need enough runway and a 10-year vision.”

To get a glimpse of what the future may look like, Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici checked out a few of the companies Google acquired recently to see what kind of robots they’re working on. There’s Meka, which focuses on “dexterous manipulation in unstructured environments, force controlled compliant actuation, human safe robotics, integrated mechatronic engineering, and the design of humanoid robots.”

Translation: Humanoid heads with eyes that will definitely follow you wherever you go.

And because robot armies can’t be stopped by a little thing like say, a pile of humans recently mowed down by laser beams, there’s Schaft, a Japanese team of roboticists with a penchant for humanoid robots that include biped algorithms that enables robots “to walk uneven ground and not to fall down even if kicked by human.”

Did you read that? You can’t even kick these guys into submission. I’m all for a burrito or a shipment of toilet paper arriving from the sky but I’m not going to let that distract me from our future masters waging robot war against humankind on the ground.

Google Puts Money on Robots, Using the Man Behind Android [New York Times]
Google Is Building Robots. These Demos Show Them At Work. [Forbes]