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Google buys Boston Dynamics to boost its robotics arm

16 Dec 2013
Boston Dynamics' LS3 robot

Google has bought military robotics firm Boston Dynamics as part of a series of deals edging the firm closer to a future of robotics products and services.

The deal, revealed by The New York Times, marks the eighth robotics company Google has bought in the past six months. However, the firm remains coy about its intentions, confirming the purchase to The New York Times but not disclosing the nature of the deal.

Boston Dynamics develops hardware for clients including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) in the US, creating strikingly animal-like machines such as Big Dog, Cheetah and Atlas, which are able to cross rough terrain and run at speeds of up to 29mph. 

Google confirmed to The New York Times that Boston Dynamics would continue to honour its existing military contracts but was not looking to become a military contractor itself.

Last week, it was revealed that Google's robotics arm was being headed up by former Android chief Andy Rubin, who took the mobile operating system from a fringe competitor to the world's most popular smartphone OS.

Potential areas for expansion for Google include the retail and manufacturing sectors, both of which benefit significantly from automated machines. Google already has investments in those areas with Google Shopping and its Motorola smartphone businesses.

Obvious comparisons can be made with retail giant Amazon, which already uses robotics extensively in its supply chain and is even trialling autonomous drones to deliver goods to consumers.

Rubin admitted to The New York Times last week that the project was a "moonshot", but hinted that the fruits of Google's labour could be seen within a few years.

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Michael Passingham

Michael Passingham joined V3 as a reporter in June 2013. Prior to working at V3, Michael spent time at computing magazine PC Pro. Michael covers IT skills, social media, tech startups and also produces V3's video content.

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