Google Buys Boston Dynamics: Is That a Good Thing?
Google's expected target applications for its new robot division are in manufacturing and retailing, and its other robot purchases are right in line. So why did it buy Boston Dynamics, makers of innovative Big Dog, shown here, and the leading-edge military robot company?
(Source: Boston Dynamics)
I agree with RBPrice, although not just for battery reasons. BigDog delivering mail or stocking shelves seems like expensive, massive overkill. Not exactly an appropriate application of technology to the tasks at hand.
Until someone comes up with a battery that will last all day, I don't see Big Dog wandering around NYC or Boston etc. deliverying mail all day. Ditto, restocking shelves in the local WalMart store. The re-stocking could be done with today's technology in guided vehicles combined with a robot - at a horrendus cost.
Search and rescue, bomb disposal - pretty much already covered. And from a military standpoint this former Marine wonders how useful they would be when encombered with armor plate to keep the bad guys from blowing them away with a single 7.62 mm round. The American indian quickly learned that the US Calvery didn't have any armor on their horses.
I think the view in the article is a bit paranoid. On an overall level there really isn't any difference between commercial and military robotics. It is just the application that is different. The technical advances made by BD as a military contractor will be very useful in commercial applications. Nothing different from what's been happening for hundreds of years. Just think about how often all sorts of technology developed for the military has found commercial applications. To give an example, think of the work done by BD to make a stable platform that can find it's way around obstacles while carrying a heavy load. Now think about a robot stocking grocery shelves without trampling customers. Same robot, different application.
eafpres, thanks for your detailed and thoughtful comments. I agree with you about the manufacturing application not making a lot of sense competitively. Unless, of course, there's some incredible innovation that will wipe that all out and leave it in the dust. The fact that BD was a pioneer in natural movements makes me wonder about that possibility: current factory robotic tech is still pretty clumsy and awkward. Some of the pick and place machines are very, very fast but that's only with a couple movements repeated over and over. So yes, I also thought of a revved-up Baxter. And I also thought about your #3--the sinister view. That's the one I think has people getting nervous. Good point about combining that with mail delivery and location (etc) information--yikes!
Even the most benign intentions can fall into the wrong hands. I agree with one comment in that Boston Dynamics has something GOOGLE feels is important to their overall goals and long-term vision. Boston has demonstrated their ability with robotic systems as Ann has demonstrated in her posts over the past several weeks and months. THEY ARE REALLY GOOD AT WHAT THEY DO. The fact that their largest customer is the "FED" really makes me nervous. (Please see NSA and millions of data points collected on a daily basis.) We are years away from "The Rise of the Machines" but significant intrusion into the daily lives of millions is happening right now. Boston Dynamics, GOOGLE, the FED. To me this could become an un-holy trinity. (Of course I've always been a little paranoid. Just ask my granddaughters.) I use robotic systems in my work but those are involved with automating manufacturing processes and developing work cells to provide added quality to the end result--the assembly of components. The accumulation of data from these work cells is used to calculate Six Sigma information, investigate trends and determine CpK. We DO NOT interfer with lives. Great post Ann and I feel your concern is right on.
Instead of sifting through huge amounts of technical data looking for answers to assembly problems, engineers can now benefit from 3M's new initiative -- 3M Assembly Solutions. The company has organized its wealth of adhesive and tape solutions into six typical application areas, making it easier to find the best products to solve their real-world assembly and bonding problems.
Many of the materials in this slideshow are resins or elastomers, plus reinforced materials, styrenics, and PLA masterbatches. Applications range from automotive and aerospace to industrial, consumer electronics and wearables, consumer goods, medical and healthcare, as well as sporting goods, and materials for protecting food and beverages.
Engineers trying to keep track of the ever-ballooning number of materials and machines for additive manufacturing and 3D printing now have some relief: a free searchable database with more than 350 machines and 450 different materials.
At JEC Europe Dow Automotive introduced a new ultra-fast, under-60-second molding cycle time for its commercial-grade VORAFORCE 5300 epoxy resin matrix for carbon composites. It's aimed at high-volume automotive manufacturing.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.