When a company has money to spend, it either has to invest it or find some way to give it back to investors. Google indeed has the money—$56.5 billion in cash, give or take a few million—and it is making investors plenty of money, but it's also on an acquisition roll to which few companies can relate.
The Web search and services giant revealed Jan. 27 that it has purchased London-based artificial intelligence software provider DeepMind for about $400 million in cash, reportedly beating out Facebook in a bit of a bidding war.
DeepMind is the ninth robotics-oriented acquisition Google has made in nine months.
DeepMind, founded in 2011 by Demis Hassabis, Mustafa Suleyman and Shane Legg, develops software for machine learning and neuroscience using powerful general-purpose learning algorithms. The privately held, 75-employee company's first commercial applications were in simulations, e-commerce and games.
In December, Google bought Waltham, Mass.-based Boston Dynamics, which makes custom robots for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Sony.
Boston Dynamics' complex and nimble robots have been featured in videos that are popular on YouTube, including BigDog, WildCat, Cheetah and others. The BigDog and WildCat videos each have been watched more than 15 million times.
The combination of DeepMind and Boston Dynamics could prove to be the basis of development of some very, very smart robots.
Only two weeks ago, Google announced the acquisition of Nest for $3.2 billion. Nest makes a product called Learning Thermostat, which is an electronic, programmable and self-learning WiFi-enabled thermostat that optimizes heating and cooling of homes and businesses to conserve electricity.
The DeepMind deal is only the most recent in Google’s growing collection of artificial intelligence acquisitions, as well as a growing fleet of some of the smartest tech companies in the world.
"If I've got this right," tweeted Box CEO and founder Aaron Levie, "with Boston Dynamics, Nest, and DeepMind, Google is building a thermostat robot dog that can learn on its own."
Google stock closed at $1,101.23, down $22 on the day. It slipped a bit more to $1,095 in after-hours trading.