Menu
From Android to automatons: Rubin's robots are Google's next moonshot

From Android to automatons: Rubin's robots are Google's next moonshot

Are an army of robotic servants Google's next bid for world domination? Google's former Android chief, Andy Rubin, is leading the charge.

”Your order of “Breaking Bad: Season 2 (Blu-ray) is ready, ma’am.”

”Your order of “Breaking Bad: Season 2 (Blu-ray) is ready, ma’am.”

Imagine this future: your smartphone chimes, you walk to the door, and touch your Android phone to a small tracked robot that hands you a package. Off it trundles back to a Google self-driving car, and on to the next delivery.

Sound far-fetched? Well, another piece of the puzzle dropped into place, when Google's Andy Rubin revealed that he was heading up Google's nascent robotics department. Speaking to  The New York Times, Rubin actually revealed little, other than that the company has picked up several robotics houses. The idea, however, is that the robotics project is less a "moonshot" than an attempt to achieve something like low earth orbit--a project designed to become a product sooner, rather than later.

As the Times notes, Google's other projects have ranged from the ambitious to the practical. They encompass Project Loon, which aims to float routers on giant balloons to provide Internet access to underserved areas; the self-driving car, which has spurred similar efforts by automakers even if Google doesn't eventually plan its own products; and Google Glass, which is already shipping to early adopters and will become a formal product sometime in 2014.

"I am excited about Andy Rubin's next project," Larry Page, Google's chief executive, said on his Google+ page. "His last big bet, Android, started off as a crazy idea that ended up putting a supercomputer in hundreds of millions of pockets.  It is still very early days for this, but I can't wait to see the progress."

Rubin himself, who only occasionally publicly posts to Google+, didn't offer any further clarifications.

What Google intends to do with the robotics project isn't clear. The Times notes that Google has bought up Schaft, a small team of Japanese roboticists who recently left Tokyo University to develop a humanoid robot, and Industrial Perception, a start-up that has developed computer vision systems and robot arms for loading and unloading trucks.

According to the International Federation of Robotics, robot sales slightly decreased in 2012 by 4 percent, to 159,346 units, the second highest level ever recorded for one year. The decline of robot sales to the electrical electronics industry was the main cause for the slight sales reduction, the IFR said. Between 2014 and 2016, the IFR said that worldwide robot sales will increase by about 6 percent on average per year, to more than 190,000 units.

Google could certainly use its robotics expertise to improve the factory floor, where more assembly lines are governed by robots, rather than teams of skilled workers. But Google has traditionally set its sights on individuals first, rather than businesses. (The humanoid robots described at the beginning of the Times story reinforces that notion.)

But Amazon's speculative drone delivery fantasy also suggests that delivery could be a possible target of Google's robotics arm. Google recently launched Google Shopping Express, a same-day delivery service in San Francisco and San Jose that nominally competes with a similar effort by Amazon in Seattle. Google already knows the best path to your door, and it's busy programming cars to negotiate those turns themselves.

In reality, it's probably more feasible to suggest that a fleet of self-driving vans armed with some sort of automated lockbox would be more feasible than dispatching a robot to your front door. But there's another aspect: After Google maps the world's roads, what's next? There's millions of miles of sidewalks and paths for Google's robotic minions to explore. And all it needs are the robotic legs to take them there.

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags robotsGooglecarsrobotics

Featured

Slideshows

Educating from the epicentre - Why distributors are the pulse checkers of the channel

Educating from the epicentre - Why distributors are the pulse checkers of the channel

​As the channel changes and industry voices deepen, the need for clarity and insight heightens. Market misconceptions talk of an “under pressure” distribution space, with competitors in that fateful “race for relevance” across New Zealand. Amidst the cliched assumptions however, distribution is once again showing its strength, as a force to be listened to, rather than questioned. Traditionally, the role was born out of a need for vendors and resellers to find one another, acting as a bridge between the testing lab and the marketplace. Yet despite new technologies and business approaches shaking the channel to its very core, distributors remain tied to the epicentre - providing the voice of reason amidst a seismic industry shift. In looking across both sides of the vendor and partner fences, the middle concept of the three-tier chain remains centrally placed to understand the metrics of two differing worlds, as the continual pulse checkers of the local channel. This exclusive Reseller News Roundtable, in association with Dicker Data and rhipe, examined the pivotal role of distribution in understanding the health of the channel, educating from the epicentre as the market transforms at a rapid rate.

Educating from the epicentre - Why distributors are the pulse checkers of the channel
Kiwi channel reunites as After Hours kicks off 2017

Kiwi channel reunites as After Hours kicks off 2017

After Hours made a welcome return to the channel social calendar last night, with a bumper crowd of distributors, vendors and resellers descending on The Jefferson in Auckland to kickstart 2017. Photos by Maria Stefina.

Kiwi channel reunites as After Hours kicks off 2017
Arrow exclusively introduces Tenable Network Security to A/NZ channel

Arrow exclusively introduces Tenable Network Security to A/NZ channel

Arrow Electronics introduced Tenable Network Security to local resellers in Sydney last week, officially launching the distributor's latest security partnership across Australia and New Zealand. Representing the first direct distribution agreement locally for Tenable specifically, the deal sees Arrow deliver security solutions directly to mid-market and enterprise channel partners on both sides of the Tasman.

Arrow exclusively introduces Tenable Network Security to A/NZ channel
Show Comments