Google's Robot Venture: What Is Andy Rubin Trying to Achieve?

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2013-12-05 Print this article Print

Google's Andy Rubin, perhaps best known for Android, the world's most widely used mobile operating system, revealed to The New York Times what he's been working on since stepping out of the Android management role at the search company.  He is working on robots. Rubin says he has acquired several robotics companies around the world and has been able to secure financing from Google CEO Larry Page to pursue the effort. The Times piece's timing is by no means coincidental. It comes just a few days after Amazon announced that it's running into the robotics space with drones, called Octocopters, that it expects will deliver goods to customers' doors within at most 30 minutes after the time of purchase. Like Amazon's drone program, Google still has years to go before it can see its effort fully materialize. But like Amazon's drones, Andy Rubin's efforts are nothing if not ambitious.  This eWEEK slide show will take a look at the Rubin "moonshot" robot project based on the revelations from the Times piece. The details on the Google Robots project are just trickling in, but robots represent a bold new venture by Google if any part of the initiative eventually reaches the market.

  • Google's Robot Venture: What Is Andy Rubin Trying to Achieve?

    By Don Reisinger
    Google's Robot Venture: What Is Andy Rubin Trying to Achieve?
  • Andy Rubin Is a Google Gem

    Andy Rubin could be the most important employee at Google, save for the company's co-founders. Through Rubin's direction, Google built Android into the mobile juggernaut it is today. Now he's working on another exciting project that could generate billions of dollars in revenue for Google. Every company needs a visionary. And Rubin just happens to be just that at Google.
    Andy Rubin Is a Google Gem
  • The First Focus Will Be Manufacturing

    According to The New York Times, an initial focal point for Google's robotics initiative will be to solve issues in manufacturing. The company believes that there is a huge opportunity in that space to enhance the production of consumer electronics with robotics, and many analysts agree. It seems like a logical place to start.
    The First Focus Will Be Manufacturing
  • Could Amazon Enter the Cross Hairs?

    Amazon's Drone program made clear that the company is thinking seriously about the ways in which it can improve delivery service. But perhaps the Google moonshot might also attempt to solve that issue. In fact, The Times indicated in its story that the initiative could take on Amazon's rapid-delivery alternative. Is a battle brewing between Google and Amazon?
    Could Amazon Enter the Cross Hairs?
  • It All Comes Down to Acquisitions

    Since Rubin kicked off this initiative, he's been on an acquisition spree. He confirmed to The Times that he has acquired seven companies so far, including a few working on humanoid robots, another creating wheels and yet another that focuses on advertising and design. There's even a robotics company in Google's portfolio that provides video systems for robot arms to load and unlock trucks.
    It All Comes Down to Acquisitions
  • Even More Acquisitions Will Follow

    The buying spree isn't quite over, according to The Times. Rubin told The Times he plans to acquire other robotics companies in the coming months, though he wouldn't say which firms. At least in Mountain View, it appears a robotics gold rush is just starting.
    Even More Acquisitions Will Follow
  • It's Further Proof of Google's Expansion

    Google has been expanding its business for years. But over the last couple of years, the company has been even more forthright about its innovations. Google has invested in a fiber service, it's getting into driverless cars, it's rethinking energy production for data centers and now it's going after robots. This effort is just the latest proof Google is much more than a search company.
    It's Further Proof of Google's Expansion
  • Breakthroughs Needed

    Andy Rubin acknowledged that getting to where he would like to go with robotics won't be easy. In fact, he told The Times that Google is hoping to make its own breakthroughs that would allow the robotics field to move forward far more rapidly. But given the recent rash of acquisitions at Google, it seems the company might also be willing to buy any firm that can deliver those innovations on their own.
    Breakthroughs Needed
  • This Is a Money-Making Endeavor

    Although some of Google's recent inventions, like the driverless car, weren't initially designed with a business model in mind, that's not the case with its robotics initiative. In fact, The Times report says that Google is hoping to get its robots into the hands of customers sooner rather than later. That will initially happen in the logistics and production chains, but could make its way elsewhere over time.
     This Is a Money-Making Endeavor
  • It Could Be Good and Bad for Humanity

    Google wants to get workers away from repetitive tasks and into environments where they can have more latitude in their jobs. But it also begs the question of how robots will affect the job market. If machines can do the jobs that humans are doing now, what will become of those workers? The economic impact of robots over the next generation should be top-of-mind for everyone.
    It Could Be Good and Bad for Humanity
  • Patience Is a Virtue

    Patience is an absolute necessity when it comes to Google's robot plans. The company needs breakthroughs to get its invention off the ground, and Rubin himself said that a 10-year road map is a good idea when embarking on this ambitious plan. So don't expect Google to revolutionize robotics tomorrow, but it could certainly happen a decade from now.
    Patience Is a Virtue
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

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