Alphabet to Sell Boston Dynamics

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, are working on ventures in a great number of fields, however, the rumours that their robotics division was in trouble could be worse than expected. In a report published by the Bloomberg News, Alphabet is looking to sell off Boston Dynamics, their most prominent robotics company, who developed robots such as Spot the dog.

In 2013, Google picked up 8 robotics companies, including Boston Dynamics to form their new robotics division named Replicant. Even this early on it was reported that the numerous firms that made up Replicant had very little in common and were scattered about the globe, causing difficulties in many collaborative efforts. When the head of Replicant, Android founder Andy Rubin, left Google, those who had joined the tech giant in robotics research and development were left confused and disorganised.

After reorganizing into Alphabet, the situation got worse, with the new parent company focused on seeking investors for its sub-companies. While Boston Dynamics constantly put out publicity videos showing off their developments growing fear amongst workers that robots could eventually take away their jobs and the lack of faith that they would have a marketable product in the next few years made Boston Dynamics a liability. While many of the startups that made up Replicant have been moved to the Alphabet X division, the future seems bleak for robotics development at Alphabet.

Where Boston Dynamics will end up remains to be seen, however, the best guesses seem to currently be that Toyota or Amazon will be looking to pick up the firm, with the former recently putting a lot of funding into robotics development. Neither company has come out with a statement regarding the possible acquisition, so it really could be up for grabs. We can only hope that no matter who their next owner ends up being, that Boston Dynamics keep pushing the field of robotics forward with their work.

Big Dog Considered ‘Too Noisy’ For US Military

The Big Dog by Boston Dynamics has become a regular sight when the military and robotics come into discussions. The company acquired by Google two years ago has been working on a quadruped robot which is designed to help support troops in the field by carrying large pieces of equipment, that was until the US Military stated that it was too loud for practical use.

The Big Dog, officially titled the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), is designed to carry weights of up to 180kg over rough terrain. While other options such as Spot, a small electric motor powered robot, were considered. Their carry weight of 18kg and lack of autonomous functions meant that it was shelved after successful military trails.

While being able to cross snow, shallow water, rubble and climb muddy trails, the top speed of 4mph meant that the big dog, while useful for carrying large amounts of equipment over long distances, the second you got close to a target the loud noise and slow movement speed made you all but sitting ducks.

While there are designs for other direct purpose robots, with one called the Cheetah clocking in at 29mph and another called RiSE titled for its ability to climb vertical surfaces, it is with no doubt that Boston Dynamics will be revealing more robots soon.

Meet the Robot That Won $2 Million in the Darpa Robotics Challenge

In Pomona, California on Friday and Saturday, some of the greatest robotic engineers gathered together to compete for a £2 million prize in a competition run by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to find the most advanced robot in the world. The two-day event pitted 24 teams –  each with their own robot funded by companies and institutions such as Amazon and NASA – against each other.

“You are going be the vanguard of this new future that you’re going to go build,” Arati Prabhakar, director of Darpa, said at the prize-giving ceremony. “We have people here from countries all over the world, and every single one of you made an incredible contribution to the field of robotics. As you do that, I know you’re going to think back to 2015, the end of the DRC and the beginning of a huge journey.”

The eventual winner that scooped the $2 million prize money, revealed on Saturday evening, was DRC-Hubo, a humanoid robot developed and built by the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon, South Korea. DRC-Hubo was one of three robots to successfully complete the eight-task challenge – the other two being Atlas, a robot developed by Google’s Boston Dynamics, and Chimp, built by Tartan Rescue – but the South Korean creation was the one deemed to have engaged with the test most effectively.

Thank you The Guardian for providing us with this information.

Elon Musk Fears Google’s Potentially “Evil” Robot Army

Elon Musk, founder of electric car firm Tesla and astronautics outfit SpaceX, is again expressing his concerns about the technological singularity, the point at which artificial intelligence usurps humanity. Musk’s fresh concern regards Google or, more specifically, Boston Dynamics, the advanced robots company famous for producing mechanoids such as the four-legged ‘Spot’. He fears that Google’s robotics programs could “produce something evil by accident”, according to his new authorised biography, Elon Musk.

Google has already spoken optimistically about producing artificial intelligence, with CEO Larry Page – a friend of Musk’s – saying, “You should presume that someday, we will be able to make machines that can reason, think and do things better than we can,” during an interview with Khosla Ventures in July 2014.

This is not the first time that Musk has voiced his fears about AI, saying in a series of leaked memos a few months ago:

“The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five-year timeframe. Ten years at most.”

“Please note that I am normally super pro-technology and have never raised this issue until recent months. This is not a case of crying wolf about something I don’t understand.”

A number of notable public figures are worried about the impending evolution of artificial intelligence, with Professor Stephen Hawking and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak adding their anxieties to the chorus.

Thank you RT for providing us with this information.

Forget the T-800, MIT and Google’s Boston Dynamics Are Said To Work on T-1000 Robots

There have been talk of future robots resembling the T-800 model from the Terminator series for some time now. Yet, no company has even arrived close to a design, yet alone a prototype of such a robot. While we won’t see any T-800’s running around anytime soon, we might see some versions similar to the T-1000. At least that is what MIT and Google’s Boston Dynamics are aiming to build.

Reports say that a team at MIT has discovered how to make a phase-changing material composed out of a mixture of wax and foam, having it change states from hard to soft at any given time. The researchers even state that thanks to the cheap materials and easy-to-make mixture, it can be used in a variety of robotics, spanning from common autonomous vacuum cleaners to high-tech advanced and complex robots.

The material has been stated to be the work of Anette Hosoi, a mechanical engineer and applied mathematics professor. She and her team, including her former graduate student Nadia Cheng, stated that the material could be used in a variety of fields, such as medical robots that can deform and change shape in order to navigate internal organs and vessels to perform delicate surgery. Other uses include rescue robots, having to navigate through collapsed structures in order to find and rescue survivors.

While the MIT has developed the material, it is said that Boston Dynamics is in charge of making the entire project, having it initially designed to contribute to Darpa’s Chemical Robots program aimed at developing robots with octopus-like abilities that are able to squeeze into small spaces. Therefore, the engineering team came up with the wax and foam idea, having the wax heated up with current running through a wire in the structure in order to make it malleable. A bonus to this technique is the material’s ability to ‘repair’ itself.

Having the wax material heated up, all deformations suffered while in the hardened state are said to repair themselves when in the soft state, just like the T-1000 robot from the Terminator movies, having the material recover from surface and even deeper damage. The researchers are said to now focus on finding a new material to replace the wax, having solder as a strong candidate. If the latter will prove to be true, then T-1000 models are not far away.

Thank you TechCrunch for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of TechCrunch

Boston Dynamics Acquired By Google

According to an article by The New York Times, Google has acquired Boston Dynamics, builder of terrifying walking robots DARPA-related projects like WildCat/Cheetah, Atlas, Petman and Big Dog. Andy Rubin has moved over from leading Android to directing Google’s robotics efforts and tweeted a link to the story, commenting that “The future is looking awesome!”. Now that it’s out, don’t think that a company specializing in building state of the art robots and a company that knows everything there is to know can start building “Terminators” anytime soon. It is just a big step and an area worth pursuing, there is still a long way until we meet robots capable of comprehension.

There’s no word on how much Google spent to snap up the robotics company, but its founder Marc Raibert is quoted by the Times saying “I am excited by Andy and Google’s ability to think very, very big, with the resources to make it happen.” Raibert stated in an interview during Expand, he specifically highlighted his company’s recent growth and the possibility of building consumer-focused robots in the future.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqMVg5ixhd0[/youtube]

Google apparently does not plan to proceed as a military contractor itself, although according to the article, Boston Dynamics will honor its existing military contracts. Raibert confirmed the acquisition, but so far neither side has commented further or explained how search ties into robots that walk on two or four legs, jump, climb and crawl.

Thank you Endgadget for providing us with this information
Image and video courtesy of Endgadget