Google Buys Boston Dynamics, the Robotics Company Behind BigDog

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Google confirmed yesterday to the New York Times that they have acquired Boston Dynamics, a robotics company that has worked with DARPA in the past and has developed some pretty remarkable robots. If you’ve been around YouTube before, you’ve probably seen the videos of their BigDog robot, the one that looks walks on four legs and looks pretty creepy.

Boston Dynamics has made other robots, too, including the humanoid walking robot called PetMan, the tiny Cheetah which can run 28 MPH, and the large WildCat robot. Now, all of them work for Google. Boston Dynamics has been around since 1992 and is based in Massachusetts. No financial terms of the deal were disclosed, nor was it said if the company’s staff would be staying in their existing headquarters, or moving to Mountain View.

This isn’t the first robotics company Google has acquired recently, and it signals a potentially fascinating shift in Google’s focus. The company hasn’t said what it plans to do with Boston Dynamics, but industry experts have suggested everything from using robots to automate data center operations, to warehouse or retail operations, to assisting in the self-driving car project.

But Boston Dynamics and its animal kingdom-themed machines bring significant cachet to Google’s robotic efforts, which are being led by Andy Rubin, the Google executive who spearheaded the development of Android, the world’s most widely used smartphone software.

Rubin famously left Android earlier this year, and his departure was lamented by Android enthusiasts who feared he would leave Google entirely. Instead, he moved into a new project, heading up the company’s new robotics projects. It’s worth noting that Rubin and the robotics projects are separate from Google X, which works on other crazy ideas like the self-driving cars and Project Loon. However, it’s entirely possible that the two divisions could work together on projects. Imagine the autonomous balloons of Project Loon with the brains of Boston Dynamics’ Robots. Or an energy-efficient data center that operates in the dark, managed entirely by robots.

Rubin shared his excitement about the news yesterday on Twitter:

It’s obvious that Google is excited for this, but what might they want with Boston Dynamics and other robotics companies? Should we be afraid of the coming machine revolution, Terminator-style? It definitely looks like Google has some big ideas for the project, so we’ll just have to wait and see.