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Google robotics project sparks speculation

Warwick Ashford

Google has revealed it has acquired seven robotics companies in the past six months and has begun hiring staff to develop its own product.

The project is to be led by former Android head Andy Rubin, but the technology firm has not revealed any details of what the team will develop.

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According to the New York Times, Google does not plan to sell the resulting product to consumers, but is expected to target manufacturing and retail.

However, in the light of the fact that Google has hired a team of engineers who make humanoid robots, the paper speculates that Google plans to use robots to automate the delivery of its self-driving cars.

The paper also speculates that Google plans to go head-to-head against Amazon's Prime Air Project, which envisages using drones to transport goods to its customers by air.

But Rubin has indicated that Google has a “10-year vision” to build the hardware, software and systems to bring the project to fruition.  

Movement and sensing systems for robotics technology have made great strides recently, according to Sethu Vijayakumar, director of the Robotics Lab at the University of Edinburgh.

"Now, with mainstream companies like Google taking up the challenge, other elements such as robust software integration, standardisation and modular design will pick up pace,” he told the BBC.

The robotics companies acquired by Google include Bot & Dolly, which specialises in precise-motion robotics and film-making; Industrial Perception, that focuses on 3D vision-guided robotic technologies; Meka Robotics; Redwood Robotics; and Japanese humanoid robotics firm IT Challenge: Preparing for warehouse robotics.


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