Google's Building an Army of Robots

Former Android CEO Andy Rubin to head Google's robots division.

December 4, 2013, 3:26 PM

Dec. 4, 2013 -- Google must have thought that it didn't have enough on its sci-fi to-do list. In addition to Google Glass and the Google self-driving car, the Internet giant still has enough time and money to create its own robot division.

The unnamed robot initiative will be led by former Android CEO Andy Rubin.

But this robot division wont't be completely built from scratch. Over the past six months, Google has acquired several companies that specialize in various robotics fields. Industrial Perception focuses on robotic arms that specialize in handling packages, while other companies such as Schaft and Meka are working on making more human-like robots.

Gary McMurray, the associate director of industry at Georgia Tech's Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines, said that based on the companies Google bought, it's not too hard to sketch out a rough picture of Google's plans. "They aren't going for the consumer market," he told ABC News. "They can use their robots for marketing, or they can go for something in manufacturing."

Regardless of how the robots will ultimately be put to use, both Rubin and Google seem intent on making robots sooner rather than later. In an interview with The New York Times, Rubin said that time was a factor. "We need enough runway and a 10-year vision," he said.

Google CEO Larry Page expressed confidence in Rubin to pull this off. "His last big bet, Android, started off as a crazy idea that ended up putting a supercomputer in hundreds of millions of pockets," Page said. "It is still very early days for this, but I can't wait to see the progress."

Other big companies have also incorporated robotics into their own businesses. "GE was the first company to get into robotics," said McMurray. "Amazon purchased their own robotics company (Kiva Systems) to help with its warehousing."

So while Google might not be the first company to work with robots, they seem to fit in. "Google is a very forward-thinking company," said McMurray. "I think [this initiative] fits in with what they're trying to do as a company."

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