Last week, Google took everyone by surprise by buying a company called Boston Dynamics which makes robots for the military. This wasn’t the first robotics company that Google has acquired but it is the biggest and most mature of their investments in robotics. What many few people remember is that earlier this year, Google hired Ray Kurzweil as their head of engineering and, if you know anything about Ray’s views on artificial intelligence and the future of computers, then the marriage of Google’s data prowess with the growing capabilities of robotics may scare a few people.
The reality is that robotics has really taken off over last few years, but mostly in industrial and military settings where robots are being asked to take on some of the most dangerous missions that used to fall to humans. In fact, the Fukushima cleanup was only possible because of the availability of sophisticated robots that could go into the highly radiated areas to do jobs that would’ve been suicidal for human technicians to do themselves. In the military, robots now routinely lead foot and vehicle patrols in war zones, exposing themselves to IEDs and other dangers that help minimize the injuries and deaths to soldiers.
In warehouses and hospitals around the world, robots go about doing routine tasks, like carrying packages and delivering medicines, and they’ve become so commonplace that the people that work there don’t even notice them anymore.
Robots are no strangers to consumers, either, and will soon be even more visible at your house or your neighbor’s house. How many people do you know that have a Roomba, that little self-directed vacuum cleaner that keeps your floors clean and give the cat something to play with during the day? In Japan, where low-skilled human labor is scarce and expensive, bipedal people-like robots are being used to take care of elderly people who live by themselves and need assistance.
So what does Google want robots for? Who knows, they aren’t talking but I think 2014 may be the Year of the Robot!
About Luis Alvarez
In less than a decade, Luis Alvarez has grown the Alvarez Technology Group, Inc. (ATG) from a small two-person consultancy to the premier information technology (IT) solutions provider on the California Central Coast, delivering IT services to more than 200 companies throughout the state. A visionary who never shies away from exploring exciting new technologies that might give his clients a competitive advantage, Luis specializes in working with executives and managers of small- and mid-sized businesses, sharing his expertise by advising them on trends, analyzing their systems for improved performance and planning how IT can help achieve their business goals.