Google has acquired robotics engineering company Boston Dynamics, best known for its line of quadrupeds with funny gaits and often mind-blowing capabilities. Products that the firm has demonstrated in recent years include BigDog, a motorized robot that can handle ice and snow, the 29 mile-per-hour Cheetah, and an eerily convincing humanoid known as PETMAN. News of the deal was reported on Friday by The New York Times, which says that the Massachusetts-based company's role in future Google projects is currently unclear.
Makers of the BigDog robot
Specific details about the price and terms of the deal are currently unknown, though Google told the NYT that existing contracts — including a $10.8 million contract inked earlier this year with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — would be honored. Despite the DARPA deal, Google says it doesn't plan to become a military contractor "on its own," according to the Times.
Boston Dynamics began as a spinoff from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992, and quickly started working on projects for the military. Besides BigDog, that includes Cheetah, an animal-like robot developed to run at high speeds, which was followed up by a more versatile model called WildCat. It's also worked on Atlas, a humanoid robot designed to work outdoors.
In a tweet, Google's Andy Rubin — who formerly ran Google's Android division — said the "future is looking awesome."
The future is looking awesome! http://t.co/iFA53b9qDC— Andy Rubin (@Arubin) December 14, 2013
Rubin earlier this month told NYT that his next big project at Google was to pursue a lifelong love of real robots, something that will be separate from the company's secretive Google X lab best known for "moonshot" projects like balloon-powered internet and self-driving cars. In the meantime, Google's quietly picked up seven different robot companies and hired robotics experts, placing teams in Palo Alto and Japan.
Here's a clip of one of Boston Dynamics' latest robots, WildCat, which debuted earlier this year.