Google Extends Its Robotics Reach With Boston Dynamics Buyout

Google has acquired Boston Dynamics, making it the eighth robotics company that the search giant has bought in the last six months.

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Google has purchased Boston Dynamics, adding to the search giant's recent string of robotics company acquisitions that it's been making in the second half of 2013.

The Boston Dynamics purchase was first reported Dec. 14 by The New York Times, giving Google its eighth robotics company acquisition since June as it expands its presence in this market. Google has quietly been investing in robotics companies as it expands its pursuit of technology innovations.

"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," The New York Times reported.

Boston Dynamics' website touts that the company "builds advanced robots with remarkable behavior: mobility, agility, dexterity and speed. We use sensor-based controls and computation to unlock the capabilities of complex mechanisms. Our world-class development teams take projects from initial concept to proof-of-principle prototyping to build-test-build engineering, to field-testing and low-rate production."

Among the company's clients are the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps and Sony Corp., all which "turn to Boston Dynamics for advice and for help creating the most advanced robots on Earth," according to the Website. The company is based in Waltham, Mass.

Boston Dynamics has created complex, incredibly nimble robots that have been featured in videos that have been very popular on YouTube, including BigDog, WildCat, Cheetah and others. The BigDog and WildCat videos have each been watched more than 15 million times.

"Google executives said the company would honor existing military contracts, but that it did not plan to move toward becoming a military contractor on its own," according to the report.

The Google pathway to robotics gained notice earlier in December when it acquired its then-seventh robotics vendor. Spearheading the initiative is Andy Rubin, who formerly and very successfully ran Google's Android operating system efforts until earlier this year.

Not much is presently being disclosed by Google about the direction of its robotics plans.

A Google spokesperson confirmed the Boston Dynamics purchase but declined to comment further.

Google, of course, has the money to try lots of different things, and the company does that on a regular basis. The company's self-driving car experiments have garnered lots of attention, as have its efforts to create and eventually sell Google Glass around the world

Google has a name for its outside-the-box, big-thinking ideas. They call them "moonshots," as in reaching for the moon and seeing what can happen.

The search giant's other robotics acquisitions include Schaft, Industrial Perception, Meka, Redwood Robotics, Bot & Dolly, Autofuss and Holomni.

Google is often an innovator in many areas outside IT. In September, the company announced that it was launching a health company, called Calico, which will work on ways to help humans be healthier and live longer lives. Much of the details behind the new operation, however, have not yet been announced, including just what that goal means and how Google will take on its mission in these areas. What is known so far is that Calico's CEO will be Arthur D. Levinson, who serves as the chairman and former CEO of Genentech and as the chairman of Apple.

Google Glass has been a topic of conversation among techies since news of it first surfaced in 2012. The first Google Glass units began shipping in April 2013 to developers who signed up at the June 2012 Google I/O conference to buy an early set for $1,500 for testing and development. It was the hit of the conference. Google also then began shipping Glass units to lucky users who were selected in the #ifihadglass contest for the opportunity to buy their own early versions of Glass.

Each Google Glass device includes adjustable nose pads and a high-resolution display that Google said is the equivalent of a 25-inch high-definition screen from 8 feet away. The glasses also feature a built-in camera that takes 5-megapixel photos and video at 720p. Audio is delivered to wearers through their bones, using bone-conduction transducers.

A lot has been happening in the world of Glass lately. In November, a report surfaced that said Google is in talks to make Google Glass available with prescription lenses for wearers of prescription eyeglasses. The report said Google has been in talks about such an arrangement with VSP Global, a nationwide vision benefits provider that also makes frames and lenses. The possibility is intriguing nonetheless because it adds an interesting twist to Google's previously acknowledged plans to create a version of Glass that could be used by people who wear eyeglasses.