Why Is Google Acquiring an Army of Robots?

On Friday, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) confirmed that it had completed its acquisition of Boston Dynamics — an engineering company that had previously designed mobile research robots for the Pentagon. The acquisition of Boston Dynamics is the eighth robotics company acquired by the Internet giant in the past year alone, leading to speculation as to what Google’s overarching goal is when it comes to robotics.

Of the robotics companies acquired by Google, Boston Dynamics is certain to garner significant attention, as the company’s animal-styled robots have earned it an international reputation as well as viral Internet fame. The company’s robots, which include BigDog, Cheetah, WildCat, and Atlas, have received widespread attention for their uncanny ability to mimic animal movement and react in real-time to balance.

But, the question of what Google plans to do with its legion of robots and robotic firms is still not clear. In the short term, the New York Times points out that the acquisition of Boston Dynamics is sure to bring significant cachet to Google’s robotic efforts, currently led by Andy Rubin. In the long term, Google’s foray into robotics could extend to a wide range of capacities. According to the NY Times, warehouse work, elder care, and package delivery are just three of the many applications that may be explored in the coming years. Given Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) recent demonstrations of delivery drones, the idea doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore.

According to Rubin, Google plans to have commercial robots available in the next several years and does not foresee a long product development stage before robotic technology is implemented in real-life situations. But, that doesn’t mean that robotic technology isn’t also a long-term plan for Google. Tech Crunch theorizes that if robotic technology is the next big step in technology, Google is understandably interested in positioning itself as the pioneer and central player in this technology shift. This would also make a lot of sense because Rubin was at the forefront of development on Google’s Android software.

For now, all onlookers can do is speculate, but considering what analysts believe Boston Dynamics is worth, Google seems to be very confident in spending when it comes to robotics technology. According to Tech Crunch, analysts have estimated that the company could be worth as much as $5 billion in the next several years. Google and Boston Dynamics are not publicizing the financial details of the acquisition, but it’s safe to say it didn’t come cheap.

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