After Amazon's pie-in-the-sky drone announcement, Google decided to tip its hand about one of their own ambitious projects: Building robots to replace humans in the workforce.
The New York Times' John Markhoff reports that Google wants to build a small army of machines that can operate in manufacturing and retail, either in assembly lines or in delivery trucks, respectively. "There are still people who walk around in factories and pick things up in distribution centers and work in the back rooms of grocery stores," Andy Rubin, the project's head developer, and the guy who created the Android operating system told the Times.
So, this confirms it: Google wants robots to take blue collar, low-wage human jobs.
Google doesn't yet have robots as responsive as, say, DARPA's T-1000 rescue robots. But the company plans to purchase, or has already purchased, enough small companies working in robotics to develop a robotics team that can come together to as one, giant Voltron-like unit. Some of those pieces are already in place, per the Times:
Among the companies are Schaft, a small team of Japanese roboticists who recently left Tokyo University to develop a humanoid robot, and Industrial Perception, a start-up here that has developed computer vision systems and robot arms for loading and unloading trucks. Also acquired were Meka and Redwood Robotics, makers of humanoid robots and robot arms in San Francisco, and Bot & Dolly, a maker of robotic camera systems that were recently used to create special effects in the movie “Gravity.” A related firm, Autofuss, which focuses on advertising and design, and Holomni, a small design firm that makes high-tech wheels, were acquired as well.
The eventual goal is to have robots working on manufacturing lines and running delivery services. Paired with Google's self-driving car project, perhaps, the company can create the first ever completely automated delivery service. Delivery faster than a Domino's pizza, and no obligation to tip. That doesn't sound so bad, really.
The other worry is that Google is unknowingly building the small infantry army that will fall in line with DARPA's much more powerful killing machines, and humans will all succumb to the robot revolution to come. That doesn't sound as good.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.