Google acquires veteran robotics firm Boston Dynamics

Internet giant confirms purchase of animal-themed automatons.

Robotic hand touching human hand

Engineering and robotics firm Boston Dynamics has become the eighth robotics company to be acquired by Google in the past six months.

The company was founded in 1992 and builds mainly animal-themed, walking robots. The best known of these is BigDog a quadruped all-terrain robot built for the Pentagon with DARPA funding. It has also created Cheetah, which boasts a top speed of over 28 mph and is the fastest legged robot, and bipedal search and rescue robot Atlas.

According to the New York Times (NYT), the company will honour its existing military contracts post acquisition, including a $10.8 million agreement to supply Atlas robots to participate in the DARPA Robotics Challenge. However, Google will not move to become a military contractor in its own right, a spokesperson cited by the NYT said.

Little is known about Google's robotics plans, other than the fact the unit is being overseen by Andy Rubin, who spearheaded the development of the company's Android mobile operating system.

While Boston Dynamics is an established and relatively well-known organisation, the other seven robotics acquisitions made by Google have been start-ups.

Humanoid robot makers Meka Robotics and Redwood Robotics, robotic camera systems maker Bot & Dolly, and its sister company ad house Autofuss have all been acquired by Google. 

Meanwhile, machine vision and robotic arm pioneer Industrial Perception, and robotic wheel maker Holomni, all based in Silicon Valley, were also snaffled by the web giant during 2013 along with Japanese start-up Schaft.

A Google spokeswoman confirmed the acquisition had taken place, but declined to comment further on the takeover or Rubin's project as a whole.

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