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Google Buys Boston Dynamics: Is That a Good Thing?

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Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Nothing good for the rest of us, I don't think.
Ann R. Thryft   1/24/2014 11:41:18 AM
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I think bdcst is right about using Big Dogs for mail delivery. That's kind of overkill: they're huge and expensive and made for difficult terrain, not exactly a description of urban or suburban landscapes.



Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Nothing good for the rest of us, I don't think.
Ann R. Thryft   1/24/2014 11:40:34 AM
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Thanks for your comment, William. I think some people are concerned, as I noticed in much of the tech press reportage on this. But that's only journalists and bloggers. Whether lots of people are concerned is another question. And even if they were, what could they do about it?



etmax
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Re: Commercializing the armed forces
etmax   1/24/2014 2:35:32 AM
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Google has a "do no evil" corporate mantra, I wonder if their "SkyNet" will have the same view??

eafpres
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Google's visions
eafpres   1/23/2014 6:38:29 PM
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Hi Ann--It is a curiosity why Google would pick up the diversity of companies it has acquried in robotics.  There are a various ways to consider this:

1) Google is being forthwright in its intentions to develop technology for industrial and manufacturing applications.  Google has mapping technology, it has cloud technology, and many other capabilities.  If you combine some of these into a robot you could, for example, have a robot that could do mining operations, still one of the most dangerous occupations around.  There are indications the mining industry in general would like to get to fully autonomous operations.  The industry is a signficant user of technology, such as location technolgies to route giant machinery in large mines.  

Although manufacturing was stated, that makes less sense to me on the surface becuase there are so many large companies already deeply involved in manufacturing automation.  The only way that makes sense is if Google believes they could deploy more general purpose robots that are easily trained and can do more human-like tasks (like Baxter 10X (a reference to Google's 10X approach.)

2) Google has decided that there is a close relationship between the internet of everything, robotics, cloud computing, and search-based intellegence and has the intent to grow a business in this area.  Think IBM Watson.  They started with a demonstration technology, now they want to leverage that into huge markets.  The question is, what markets is Google really after?

3) Ths sinister view is that Google has gotten cozy with the Government, and is going to start generating revenues in a Government/Military business, as another way to leverage all the technologies they offer.  Think about this--the large robots from Boston Dynamics connected to a massive cloud computing resource giving the robots near autonomy in dangerous areas.  The earlier remark about Terminator is not far from the mark in this scenario.  There are even more sinister lines of thought--as noted in another comment, let's say Google takes over mail and package delivery by robots.  But these robots are linked to a massive cloud resources matching up terabytes of information relating to the shipping origin, the destination address, past delivery history, past history of all, say, catalogs and bills received, plus, it has sensors to sniff out chemicals, drugs, dangerous materials, etc., it can scan every package for all fingerprints and do further matching and connecting the dots.  When you come to the door to get your robo delivery, it sniffs you and your home, adding further intel on possible drug use or other activities, perhaps it listens and makes note of how many people it thinks are there, what TV is being watched, what music is played, and even what's for dinner.  Oh, and it also scans any faces it sees and matches them to a real-time cloud dB of people and flags if you might be somebody on a "list".  The government then uses all this hyper-connected intel to "find" suspected terrorists, drug dealers, or other "persons of interest".

Which, if any is the right interpretation?  Who knows.  

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Going Postal
Ann R. Thryft   1/23/2014 3:54:55 PM
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JimRW, you got it.

JimRW
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Re: Going Postal
JimRW   1/23/2014 3:22:05 PM
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Tongue in cheek is hard to convey in text, but I totally agree with your Massive Dynamic comparison. In Fringe they were both good and bad, depending on the situation.

 

bdcst
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Re: Nothing good for the rest of us, I don't think.
bdcst   1/23/2014 3:20:57 PM
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Too much ground clutter, traffic, to use robotic delivery dogs in most urban locations.  And the power plant can be quite noisy too and less energy efficient than, for example, a lighter than air blimp drone.  I can imagine, even if the robot's power system was relatively quiet, its animal like shape and movement might excite a lot of barking dogs.

The code required for dynamic balance control of a quadruped isn't particularly applicable to the act of driving a car.  However, obstacle avoidance, and maintaining a correct route are activities whose clever coding could be valuable to Google's autonomous vehicle persuits.

Buying into the expertise of Boston Dynamics could be very helpful to Google.  And yes, it does give one pause to think about the modern day goldrush to centralize capabilities into huge conglomerates.  On the other end of the cycle, a time may come when pressure will come to bare to once again disassemble the monopolies.  Human history seems to repeat itself with no promise of learning from it.

 

 

William K.
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Nothing good for the rest of us, I don't think.
William K.   1/23/2014 2:15:02 PM
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Google, that company that gathers up so much information about everybody who uses the internet, almost, is now investing in some serious robotics, and has purchased an organization that has a proven track record of producing "things that work well", and nobody is concerned? Possibly GPS guided versions of "Big Dog" could be used for delivery purposes without many of the limitations faced by the Amazon Drone Delivery System. Just consider that a thing walking down the sidewalk does not need to meet the requirements for an autonomous motor vehicle, nor does it fall under any FAA rules. So a Delivery Dog system would be a lot less regulated, and a whole lot "cooler" than the delivery drones. But then I think about those "hounds" in the book "Farenheit 451", which seemed to be able to complete a task without intervention. Not all uses of autonomous devices would be for the benefit of most of us. I can certainly imagine being followed by a robot of some kind delivering an advertising spiel for some shop that I was approaching on the avenue. That would be one step beyong the location sensitive advertising planned for smart phones, and much harder to ignore. And much less pleasent yet is the image of a robotic police droid enforcing the latest whim of an overbearing city government. That may sound way outside the realm of possibility, but it is almost within the scope of current technology. And who believes that all advancs in technology are "for the good?"

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Going Postal
Ann R. Thryft   1/23/2014 2:14:29 PM
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Good point about code, JimRW. That's certainly part of how BD managed to get more animal-like movements in its bots.
Google has shown it doesn't operate by its own motto in several different ways. That's one of the reasons it reminds me of Massive Dynamic. Some cynics would say that's why it adopted that motto in the first place.

jcbond_mi
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Google Buying Boston Dynamics
jcbond_mi   1/23/2014 2:08:57 PM
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Here's what I think, based on Google's (and others) activities:

A huge market is in-vehicle info-tainment systems.  The Automotives, by and large, all have crappy systems, although some people except On-Star.  The future of in-vehicle info-tainment is going to be plugging in your phone (wirelessly, of course) and making use of its applications, bandwidth, and constant updates.  The Automotives will just supply the cradles: large screens, easy connectivity, standardized safety interlocking for distracted driving.

The problem for Google is that they are late to the game and well behind others, like Microsoft and Apple.  Google doesn't want to be just a me-too company, so they are looking for an advantage.  And that is why they started their autonomous vehicle program:  They want to define the future for vehicles.

A fully autonomous vehicle is a difficult prospect.  It's easy to use robots when decision making is limited;  but the driver of a car needs to be able to evaluate multiple information streams and make decisions quickly, especially in an emergency situation.  So certainly, Google would be interested in autonomous robots.  They would be especially interested in autonomous robots like Big Dog, which can climb uneven and varying terrain, AND react to unexpected events, like a tremendous shove(very impressive).  I would also expect Google to be interested in partnering with DARPA and companies like Lockheed, who are working to develop pilot-less fighter jets.

In other words, I think it's long term move that makes commercial sense.  There's also the potential side benefit of unexpected synergies that can take off in a totally new direction.

- Joe

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