Advent of Google’s Robotic Revolution - The New Indian Express

Advent of Google’s Robotic Revolution

Published: 22nd December 2013 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 21st December 2013 01:41 PM

If there is anything that ten thousand years of history teaches us, it is that human beings fear technology as much as they embrace it. This fear takes many forms, some of them utterly irrational. This fear reached it’s zenith at the dawn of the industrial revolution when people were terrified that machines would replace human beings and so will take away their means of livelihood. A group of anti-technology workers called Luddites proved to be so popular that to this day anyone who is not very welcoming of new technologies is called a luddite. The last few decades have given rise to a new kind of fear. Some of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters of recent times like The Matrix, I Robot and The Terminator have been made on the premise that one day machines will rise and take over the world. It is not a coincidence that most of these films feature robots as the symbolic embodiments of that machine uprising particularly because humanoid robots seem to evoke an almost evolutionary fear in human hearts. The Terminator in particular is so popular that the word Skynet, the name of the company that becomes self-aware and exterminates humanity, is attributed to any company appearing to taking over the world.

Over the years no other company has come so close to evoking Skynet than Google. With its latest ‘moonshot project’ of robotics, it has only gotten a little closer. The recent New York Times article about Google’s robotics project and the subsequent acquisition of Boston Dynamics only supports that widely held belief that Google is indeed travelling on the path to becoming an omnipotent super entity.

According to the NYT report, the robotics effort is being led by Andy Rubin, who is the brainchild behind the Android operation system and who has made Android the world’s most dominant mobile OS that it is today. After handing over the Android reins to Sundar Pichai at the beginning of this year, Rubin reportedly convinced Google’s ambitious, geeky founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page to open the purse strings so that he can make his dream of robotics a reality. Over the past six months, Google has reportedly acquired six technology companies that would help it with the robotic effort. Some of these companies like Meka and Redwood Robotics make humanoid robots and robot arms, while some like Holomni make high-tech wheels. The report goes on to state unlike many of it’s ‘moonshot projects’ Google wants it’s robots to start making money ‘sooner rather than later’ and that Google sees its robots working in jobs like manufacturing and logistics. Google’s latest acquisition, Boston Dynamics, announced a few days after the report, is its biggest robo-acquisition yet. Boston Dynamics is a robotic engineering company which in layman’s terms can make robots walk and run like humans and animals. Some of its most impressive robots like the Cheetah which can run at 47 kmph, the BigDog that can handle rough terrain like ice and snow, PETMAN the humanoid robot that can walk like a human being and the latest entrant Wildcat which can run and turn like a real animal are viral hits on YouTube. Google already owns the world’s information. It is impossible to live online today without coming into touch with some or other Google service. With projects like Google Fiber and self-driving cars, Google is getting into real lives. It will be easy to think of the Google robots as just another product. That is until they make use of all that information, become self aware and start crushing our skulls.


■ Google’s robotics effort is being led by Andy Rubin

■ Over the past six months, Google has acquired six

companies that would help it with the robotic effort

■ Google sees its robots working in manufacturing and logistics


The writer is a tech geek. Email:

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