Google announced Friday that for an undisclosed sum it had acquired Boston Dynamics, a Massachusetts engineering company that designs robots for the Pentagon. It’s the eighth robotics company Google has purchased in the last several months.
Last week, the Times also reported that Google’s newest “moonshot” effort to create a division focused on building and experimenting with robots would be developed by Andy Rubin, the boss behind Google’s Android operating system. Unlike Google’s computerized glasses or driverless cars, these robots will be available only to businesses that want to streamline the manufacturing process.
It’s unclear if manufacturing will be Boston Dynamics’ main purpose now that it is part of Google. An Oxford University study from last year predicted that 45 percent of United States jobs were “at high risk” of being lost to computerized machines.
Boston Dynamics robots, such as BigDog, Cheetah, WildCat and Atlas, have gained notoriety over the years through YouTube videos, GIFs and “the robots are taking over” half-curious, half-terrified reactions they create. The videos show agile, four-legged robots bustling through rough terrain, or sprinting around parking lots. One recent video showed their Cheetah robot sprinting 29 mph on a treadmill, faster than Usain Bolt in the 100-meter dash.
Boston Dynamics was founded in 1992 by Marc Raibert, a former Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor. The company currently has multimillion-dollar contracts with DARPA, the U.S. military’s advanced research division. Google plans to honor those contracts.
See footage of one of the company’s all-terrain galloping robots here.