Google buys Pentagon-funded robotics firm behind fastest-legged robot
Boston Dynamics, an engineering company that designs robots like BigDog, Cheetah, WildCat, and Atlas, is now the eighth robotic company to join Google’s ranks in the last six months, the company confirmed Friday, according to The New York Times.
The robotics company - based in Waltham, Massachusetts - is known for its fascinating robots that have a sense of balance and can walk and run on almost any kind of terrain. Boston Dynamics was established in 1992 and is known for supplying robotics technology mostly for Pentagon clients, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Google has so far refused to reveal what it is planning to do with the new technology, but the internet giant’s robotic efforts, headed by Andy Rubin, will certainly have impressive capability due to the new acquisition. The company also said it will keep the financial aspect of the deal confidential.
The tech giant said that it intends to honor the existing military contracts the firm has, but does not plan to become a military contractor.
As of now, Boston Dynamics has a $10.8 million contract with DARPA to supply several humanoid Atlas robots. The machines are set to participate in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, which awards the winning maker with a $2 million prize. The contest evaluates robots’ ability to function during natural disasters and catastrophes such as an earthquake or a nuclear power meltdown.
“Competitions like the DARPA Robotics Challenge stretch participants to try to solve problems that matter and we hope to learn from the teams’ insights around disaster relief,” Rubin, the man behind the development of the Android mobile operating system, said in a statement released by Google.
Fast and creepy: BigDog, WildCat, Cheetah
The company’s robots are famous for their abilities to walk through terrain which is difficult even for humans. One of its four-legged robots, BigDog, can climb hills, walk through snow, travel through ice, and remain standing even after being kicked by a human, according to a video of the robot released in 2008.
One of the company’s recent creations is WildCat, a four-legged outdoor runner capable of rising, turning, and reaching running speeds of up to 16 miles per hour (mph) on flat ground. Boston Dynamics released a video of the robot in October.
The robotics firm has also designed robots that can climb walls and trees, as well as run faster than any human being on earth. A video recorded the Cheetah robot running 29mph faster than the fastest human, Usain Bolt. The Jamaican sprinter’s top speed is 27.78 mph (44.7km/h).
Other robotics companies purchased by Google are based in the US and Japan, and focus on software for advanced robotic arms, grasping technology, and computer vision.