Google’s Top-Secret Robotics Projects

You may have heard of a little internet company called Google. A survey conducted by Pew reports that 91% of adults on the internet use search engines to find the information they’re looking for. Google processes an average of 40,000 user searches every second of the day! At that rate, Google processes over 3.5 billions search queries a day and 1.2 trillion searches a year.

There’s no denying that Google is a behemoth when it comes to internet searches, but they’re more than just a search engine. Within the last few years, Google has gone on a high-tech spending spree, buying up a number of robotics companies. In 2010, the company started Google X, a secret lab where brilliant minds could develop robotics projects.

Google X is responsible for incredible projects like Google’s self-driving car, a drone deliver system called Project Wing, Google Glass, and Makani power, which generates power through airborne wind turbines.

As of last month, Google’s secret robotics initiative has a new man at the helm. James Kuffner is an adjunct professor at Carnegie Melon and the new head honcho for Google’s robotics projects. Kuffner is an expert on humanoid robotics, and has been working on humanoid robots for nearly two decades.

For the last four years, Google has been investing in and developing robots at an incredible rate. Last December, Google bought the robotics company Boston Dynamics, which made it the 9th robotics company Google had purchased in 6th months.

Boston Dynamics is a really neat company that has made a number of mobile robots for the U.S. military. Some of the robots that Boston Dynamics has created include a humanoid called Atlas which is capable of walking over rough terrain, a robot that can run near speeds of 30 miles per hour called the Cheetah, Big Dog which can carry almost 400 pounds through mud and snow, and one called Rise that can climb trees and buildings.

Marc Raibert had this to say about working “Before Google we got a lot of our work funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). It’s a great government organization that funds far-out-there research. And the exciting thing about DARPA is that they have a lot of money and a lot of blue-sky ambition. The cool thing about Google is they have a lot of money and even more ambition.”Google’s ambition and resources are pretty well known to the general public. however, it’s the secretive nature of Google’s robotics projects that grabs peoples attention.

SCHAFT, a Japanese robotics company that Google recently gobbled up, won the DARPA robotics challenge with a very impressive and versatile robot. The robot effortlessly drove a golf cart, climbed stairs, cleared rubble, and coupled a fire house. That’s a pretty wide array of tasks for a single robot to perform, which it did flawlessly.

Before SCHAFT was acquired by Google, they were pretty open with their plans and technology. However, once Google purchased the Japanese company, lips became sealed and information that had previously been posted for public knowledge had been deleted.

No one except for the folks at Google really know what they have planned. Maybe these high profile purchases and cloak and dagger maneuvers are all an elaborate publicity scheme to keep people interested in what they are doing. Maybe Google is planning on building a fleet of killer robots to control earth and claim the moon. Either way, the projects that Google is revealing to the public are pretty incredible.