Google Seen in DARPA Robotics Challenge to Support Boston Dynamics
By Julie S | Dec 21, 2013 10:10 AM EST
Google confirmed reports that it has bought robotics company Boston Dynamics recently. This was made obvious after a Google bus was seen rolling, one of the perks of being an employee, in the DARPA Robotics Challenge.
Boston Dynamics is the company behind notable feats in the field of robotics like Atlas, a six-foot tall, 330-pound two-legged robot who can perform several tasks and the four-legged robot BigDog.
Google has acquired several robotic companies before they took interest in Boston Dynamics. Analysts say that the move may be due to the company's eagerness into using robotics to improve its current products and services offering. Another reason is that Google is keen on developing humanoid robots for commercial release.
With the acquisition, Boston Dynamics is expected to get new hires.
"My understanding is they're very interested in the humanoid robots and what they could be made to do, and finding a commercial use and business purpose for them," said Boston Dynamics project Manager Joe Bondaryk said in an interview. "DARPA is all blue sky thinking, but Google is even more blue sky and it has deeper pockets."
The DARPA challenge has three contenders: Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Virginia Tech-- all vying to make the best software possible which enables robot to function like a human being. The robots being developed by these institutions are believed to be able to perform tasks just as precisely as humans do: climb a ladder, use tools, and even drive a car. The teams competing for DARPA has built their own software and paired them to Atlas robots while some worked on both hardware and software.
Bondaryk also noted that Boston Dynamics is creating a new battery pack to be used in the three-part Robotics Challenge final test. The challenge in this endeavour lies in the battery which has to be powerful enough to fuel the robot but light so that the robot could carry it around while it performs tasks.